Tuesday, March 29, 2016

"What’s Made by the Hand, Comes From the Heart"

Note: This post is unfinished. A peek into my mind and process...

"This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: "Go down to the potter’s house, and I will announce my words to you." So I went down to the potter's house and there I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping with the clay became marred in his hands, so the potter formed another pot, shaping it as it seemed best to him. " Jeremiah 18:1-4 

When I was about 6 or 7, I got a pottery wheel for Christmas. Not artist grade, but something from Toys 'r' Us I'd seen on TV (before they had "As Seen on TV") and asked for, desperate to make some amazing pottery.  My wonderful parents obliged, always supporting my artistic endeavors, but it became clear very quickly that this wheel could only do *maybe* a revolution or 2 *per second* and had nowhere near the power or speed it would take to transform a lump of clay into a symmetrical and useful something or other. :( It was a bitter pill but lesson well learned about truth in advertising and those shiny, happy commercials ( I mute commercials, put something away or take a bathroom break, to this day, yes, I do)

In our Moms' Together Bible study last week, our leader arranged for Rachel Norris of Joy Pottery to share during our group time, and I think it was truly the first time I've seen a piece go from wedging to lump to a finished piece (before firing) at one time. (And rekindled all those unfulfilled pottery dreams!  Too bad I am a few hours from Bryan, TX or I'd be tempted to take her classes) I've seen other artists do performance pieces over the years to accompany worship music, but this really went to a different place.  I was on the edge of my seat, not just as an interested artist but a hungry believer, feasting on the parallels that were apparent as she first laid out the potter's process (that so clearly mirrored the Christian life.) How fitting that God told Jeremiah to go to the potters house for a visual he could see of what God intended to do with the clay.  It is so much more than I understood before than just "shaping and reshaping", and perhaps people in Bible times had a better understanding of the process than we non- potters do today, who can go buy a set of dinnerware at Walmart.  

Some specific things that I may have had an idea of but not been instructed on the finer points by a master potter, listen closely if you are interested:

First, the clay must be centered on the wheel (in Christ) or it will wobble and can’t be correctly shaped, needs a foundation.

The clay begins as a lump.We can remain a lump (and lumps can go to church, week in and week out) OR we can go through the wedging process: stretching and pressing and kneading to work out all the inconsistencies before shaping. We can’t just smooth over them, or the clay will explode later in the fire. (And we don't want to remain lumps!)

If it’s too stiff, the potter can’t work with it. Too soft, it doesn't have the body to maintain a form. He won't throw either out, but will put it aside. He needs a response from the clay to be worked and changed.

Will it be a pitcher, a mixing or serving bowl, a platter? Whatever the potter sees fit.  Whatever is needed. (We don't need a thousand pitchers.) The potter knows where to expertly apply just the right amount of pressure for as long as needed to form the exact shape that will determine its use.  A deep bowl is good for mixing.  A wide, open bowl is good for tossing.  A bowl with a wide lip is good for serving.

And then, the crucial waiting time to dry, before the fire. We must be ready. And still.

Clay that hasn't been fired will crumple, crack or break.  It must be fired. When (we) are in the fire, He is taking the clay and give it a completely different character. 

What is most important in this process? The pressure, the fire? No. The potter’s vision for the clay. The clay doesn’t know. We often wish to be something we aren't. Or if we were a little more like this or like that...

Pottery shards are the last remnant of a past society, because of the fire.

And a few important takeaways, mixed in (just in case we missed it):

We hear His word out of obedience, He makes an appointment, and if we keep it, God will speak

We are clay in His hands-it’s all about relationship

"Spoiled in his hands, then made something pleasing in his sight"- He is the God of 2nd chances

Surrendering to being clay in His hands, this is freedom, for God’s job to make His vision

Chose us specifically, to bear fruit and fruit that would remain. 

He already has the fire in mind when he's choosing the clay.

He can work with any clay that will respond to his touch. 

We have a perfect father, but we all still rebel, don't want to be shaped.

"What’s Made by the Hand, Comes From the Heart"- We are shaped by His Hand!  We come from His Heart! He does not spend time on clay he doesn't care about.  He gives the clay everything he has, his perfect wisdom and love, to make it perfect and pleasing in his sight. "And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will see it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1: 6 How humbling and wonderful.

Now I can't do justice to her story, partly because her testimony is so very personal, but also because I can't show in a post the clay undergoing the change under her skilled, knowing hands. This blessed event, both testimony and performance, is one she has been sharing with others for 23 years*, but began much much earlier, through the time learning her craft , but also walking with the Lord, times when she was close and far off, and even before she was born, the Lord knew her and had these plans in mind. I will say that out of one lump during the hour and 30 minutes she spoke, she was able to transform in seconds into many different designs:  an artful and perfect pitcher, next a mixing bowl, to a salad bowl, to a wide plate, either pulling it out (and if you've seen a potter at work before, you know a subtle movement changes the entire shape in an instant like magic before your eyes ) or crushing it in a moment in those same hands.  I can speak for many of us that the work was beyond what any of us will ever create, yet she could fold it in on itself without a moment of hesitation knowing she could do it again, just as easily, with the same clay.  Each time she crumpled the piece (which she explained would not travel back to Bryan well with out drying and firing it first and was only for the purposes of demonstration) we all let out a collective and audible gasp (or moan) seeing something so pretty turn back into a lump.  She pointed out how quickly we women could get emotionally attached to something! ("A thing of beauty!",  I added silently) It was a wonderful, concrete example of how we can and must let things (people?), we've invested in, with our time, talent and/or treasure, go, in its time.  I won't go into her personal life because I feel that is one you have to hear from her, but she wove it in as deftly as a master weaver, and we shared many of the same trials (and you probably have also, as many are just part of growing up, or the human condition), but it was inseparable from what she did with the clay, showing God's hand in her life and what he'd done, was doing and will continue to do.  Praise God!

Where is my clay now? Thankfully, not currently a lump, but who knows, tomorrow he may take me down for more wedging.  Many times he has responded to my stubbornness by starting completely over. Thank you, Lord, for not giving up. Some days wedging and shaping may feel the same to clay, apart from the nausea induced spinning (this is why I think I must currently be on the wheel!) Definitely not currently in the fire, although it often gets hot!  But I spend a lot of time in spite of all I've learned through experience and study thinking and feeling and acting like I have to figure out how to be something more than what I am. Knowing this,  and fruitlessness of it, I'm trying to embrace the peace that I also know comes with just surrendering to letting the potter do His work. It's a good place to be.

Recently, someone close to me told me I "could have done so much more with my life" than to make cards, or to illustrate stamps.  That I am "smart enough to have done something important", or earned more. Ouch. Have you been there? But I know in my heart of hearts my gifts and everything in my experience brought me here, that it has come through prayer and patiently (often impatiently) seeking the Lord and His will in my life, and that I *must* have something specific to share with people who have a love for stamping and cardmaking (as well as that God's provision has allowed me to be at home available to my sons and help provide for the family.)  When I work on my sets, I feel like everything falls into place, it is the closest thing I feel to freedom other than worship, and it is a real closeness and collaboration with my Creator.  There is a quote in Chariots of Fire when Eric Lidell says, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure." And drawing and putting my sets together is that way for me. I am still wondering and praying how He wishes me to use all these things in my testimony. (I've offered it before but really had no takers. Perhaps he is still working out inconsistencies to make me ready.) I feel like in Rachel's demonstration he has given me a peek into what he might have in mind as I mature in my walk. Maybe nothing with as many parallels or perhaps as demonstrable as the potter and her wheel, but I am certain, according to His promises, it is beyond what I can imagine.

Thank you for reading today. This post began taking shape last week, but I have been sidelined with a few things that prevent me from shaping it to my satisfaction at this time. I could set it aside as I often do when my words are inadequate for getting an important message "right" , but sadly I am already burdened with regret this morning about waiting on communicating something else until it was too late, so I'm just going to post it now and hope it encourages someone. God bless you all.

*I am also reminded to add, she said a friend told her she should share her life story and work at the wheel with their Sunday school class. She laughed it off at first, but later told God, "If that's what you want me doing, Lord, and you provide the opportunities, I will go." And God has provided these opportunities for 23 years!   She travels at least once week, sharing this same story, lugging a cumbersome wheel but reflecting the light of Jesus and his redemption as she shares what she knows is true from the broken parts of her life and how he has put it back together, and wants to do the same for us all. Amen.  Prayer for continued blessings on her  and her ministry and the trials she continues to walk through I hope you can hear her one day.

PS Viewing my blog now, I find it very interesting that although I typed everything in the same font and it all looks consistent in preview mode, the only statement that is coming up in Times Roman and set apart is the one about the pottery shards remaining. Interesting, indeed...


  1. What an encouraging article! I think you have put on paper what a lot of us "crafters" feel in our heart. I especially appreciate your words that tell us our wonderful (creative) Creator will shape our very being from pressure and fire to make us just what is best for us. All we have to do is listen, surrender and obey! Well written and insightful, my friend.

  2. Beautiful, Melanie. Thanks for sharing with us.

  3. Reminds me of a favorite hymn:

    Have Thine own way, Lord, have Thine own way
    Thou art the potter, I am the clay
    Mold me and make me after Thy will
    While I am waiting, yielded and still

    Have Thine own way, Lord, have Thine own way
    Search me and try me, Master, today
    Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now
    As in Thy presence, humbly I bow

  4. Melanie, thanks for sharing your heart. I know God put you just where you are suppose to be, your talents are God given and your testimony as well. We may never meet here on Earth but one day I hope we can connect in Heaven. Have a wonderful day. Patti

  5. Thank you Melanie for sharing....much food for thought and inspiration! It is so nice to hear you say you feel inspired and free when you create and share....I think we can all relate as Christian crafters to that!
    Paper Hugs,

  6. What a wonderful and uplifting post dear Melanie! I know the Lord put you where you are today just as he put that pottery artist where she is as well. And, I believe the Lord has led me to do what I do with the card ministry because it brings joy to those who are shut in and maybe sometimes feeling forgotten. If I can bring joy to one of these, then I know the Lord has led me to use my limited talents for His good. So keep sharing and by the way, I love when you include Bible verses in your sets. I would love to see some sets with Bible verse sentiments included more often. God bless you!

  7. Thank you for such a great testomony. You have so wisely put into words what we are about as we craft these treasures God gives us for others. Your gift is a treasure which we are blessed to be a part of. In and for His name always.
    J. Anderson

  8. Well this has been just glorious! I can so identify with all you said, especially the part about feeling complete and at your happiest when you are creating. That's how God made those of us who have creative souls. That's why we are at peace when we have made something. It's a sure sign that we are doing what he has made us to do.

  9. Thank you for this relevant post. I am facing major surgery for my cancer next week.
    I was wondering what does the Lord have in mind here? What am I to glean or learn from this trial?
    Thank you for the reminder that He is God and He is the molder and He has a plan.

  10. What a wonderful, insightful, and encouraging post. I, for one, am glad that you have made and illustrated cards. Being home with your children is one of the most important and creative things a mother can do and you will never regret it. In the meantime, you have had a wonderful way to fulfill your creative side and share with us. Have you thought about how many of us have made cards with your stamps and blessed others with them. Just think about all the joy you have shared with your talent.

  11. I have always wanted to try pottery...I don't think it would be something I'd want to do a lot of because I can't stand getting my hands so dirty and having that dried mud feeling on them, but would so LOVE to try it. Love your story, and would love to hear her's one day.

    As for you and your choices, I think you have made perfect ones, being there for your family is the most important thing for a woman in my opinion, and in this day and age, it's hard to live on one income, so finding something you can do at home to help bring in money in the times your family doesn't need you is what a Proverbs 31 woman is all about! I struggle with that one, cause I've never found a way to help bring funds in to our small family, not to mention was never able to have children, so thats just another way I feel like a failure, but it's so good to read that you made that choice to do something to help your family that would let you be there for them, because thats totally how I feel it should be.

    Thank you so much for sharing this, it is encouraging to know there are still women like this out there...as to many that I know either want to sit at home and do nothing, not even "keep the house neat" or prefer to go out and work even with small children. Yes, sometimes you just have to...but if you don't...and yet you prefer to, then thats on YOU, and that just makes me sad.

    So glad you found your calling...I never really did. Besides...the joy your designs bring to others lives, either the ones who buy them to use...or the ones who receive the cards made with them makes your "calling" ever so much more important than a lot of other "things" you could do in my opinion. :-)) Thank you for doing what you do...being there for your family...and being here for us with your designs! :-))

  12. Thanks for sharing your heart. You have a wonderful testimony to share that really touched me.

  13. Wow!! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  14. So beautifully shared with us!!! We have to be at peace in our hearts and Trust our God for He has created all!! You are where your at for a purpose and how you are touching others. Very interesting how we are used of God when our trust is fully in Him....

  15. Melanie, you are such an inspiration to me and your blog today puzzled me, why do you wonder, when you are touching so many lives with the beauty that you share, the encouragement, your God given talent, you are where he wants you to be. I would so love to hear this lady speak, however, Texas is even further for me. I am a lot older than you and feel I am still in the "lump" stage. I make cards and send them purely knowing (hoping) that I am bringing joy and surprise to someone and hopefully making their day a bit brighter. I try, but I guess we all question ourselves if we are doing what we are meant to do. I hope you realize how much I look forward to your posts and for each of your stamp sets and enjoy your sharing your creativity. Thank you and God has blessed you!

  16. Thanks so much for sharing your heart with us Melanie. This really uplifted me. I also have experienced a potter at the wheel sharing God's word as she went. Her shop is in California and during an earthquake many years ago all her pottery was broken and shattered. She gave each one of us a piece of broken pottery. I keep mine next to my bed and am reminded each morning that I am a work in progress and when anything in my life becomes broken and shattered there is only ONE who can fix me and comfort me.

  17. Thanks Melanie for sharing! It came at a good time for me, Sometimes he has to hit me over the head to get my attention and your words were the hit I was needing. Sometimes I think I'm the one in charge and try to do it my way and believe me it's so much easier when I let him do the molding.
    You are exactly where he wants you to be or you wouldn't be there. You are very blessed with a talent for creating, but more than that you touch hearts in so many ways. You give those of us not so talented, or talented in other ways, tools to touch hearts too. That's a great gift! With your values I'm sure you're a great wife and mother too and there is no greater talent or gift than that. Thanks again for sharing! Sorry to be so long winded.xo

  18. Terrific post Melanie and I am so glad that you shared it with all of us, I do feel God is working through you and what you are doing right now in your life! No matter how small or grand what we are doing may be, as long as we are doing for his glory he sees it all the same way I feel! Thanks again for sharing, I may share this with my ladies bible study group.

  19. That was so inspiring and motivating. Thank you Melanie for sharing that with us. How true and how odd that I have never looked at it that way. I passed this around to many of my friends. It's not often we get to share our relationship with our Lord so publicly and from my heart I thank you. God Bless. Hugs and smiles coming your way.

  20. I came to see a "sneak peek" (which is beautiful, by the way), but came away with something much more from this post. Thank you for taking the time it took to share it and having the courage to post it even when the "just right" feeling wasn't there. I think that is good, because then we know it is his Spirit and not us that really does the work in the hearts we minister to.

  21. Thank you, Melanie. This is very inspiring. As I head out tonight to meet with my small group of card-making friends, who love the cards I make, but then say - "but you have all the supplies and equipment" - I will know in my heart, that God gave me a talent, not just supplies. Yes, I am fortunate to be able to have the supplies, however I hope the cards I make mean a lot more than supplies. Your testimony has reassured me, inspired me and made me more aware that there is a purpose He has in mind, when I share my talent. Thank you so much for sharing.

  22. Thank you for sharing. I was inspired, I laughed, and I learned something. I am sharing this link on my facebook page so others can be lifted up as I was. God works in mysterious ways as I randomly chose your name from Gina's blog to look at your artwork with the new kit. I was almost going to leave the post when I scrolled down and saw this last post. I really needed it.

  23. Thank you, Melanie, for the reminder of how God is there to lead us to Him so He can do what was meant for us. I appreciate you sharing the potter's story with us, it's a wonderful parable.


Your generous feedback helps make my work and this blog better! Thanks for inspiring and motivating me! :)