Category Archives: In the Sandbox

The Grumble Box

When our children were in elementary school, they began to drag down to breakfast with sour faces, complained aOctober 2015 015t scrambled instead of fried eggs, and whined they didn’t get the biggest cookie in their lunches.

They wanted striped shirts, not plain ones, and plain socks, not striped ones. They didn’t want to take the dog outside (the one they’d begged for and promised to take care of), and the toys were much too big a mess to clean up.

I prayed about what to do.

When the rescued people of Israel complained in the desert about manna for breakfast, manna for lunch, and manna for dinner, God was angry and sent them poultry to eat–so much poultry it piled up and spoiled, causing people to sicken and die.

If God considered complaining so serious an offense, I neeAugust 2015 111ded to take notice and teach my kids to be thankful for what they had and to do their work without complaint.

Then I came across Psalm 142:1-2,  which says: “I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out before Him my complaint; before Him I tell my trouble.”

So then, there were at least two kinds of complaint to consider—the legitimate need to share feelings and the self-centered whine. I had been working hard on the first–practicing the art of looking in my childrens’ faces and really listening to them.

It was the second that concerned me. That’s when I instituted the Grumble Box. October 2015 014

A Grumble Box can be made from anything. It can be a cardboard box with a colorful design and a slot cut in the top, or a decorated spice can. I wrote a little ditty for ours and taped it to the top of the box. It read like this:

When gratitude doth tumble and resulteth in a grumble, please deposit thou a coin, thy mouth for to humble.

“What’s this?” the kids asked when they came in the kitchen.

“This is the Grumble Box,” I said. “We all need to be more thankful and complain less. WAugust 2015 008hen you whine about doing chores or taking care of the dog or whatever, you’ll have to put a coin in the box.”

“What kind of coin?”

“It might be a penny, a nickel, a dime, or a quarter depending on the whine.”

“What about you?”

This took me aback.  “Um,” I said, “yes, of course–me too. If I grumble I’ve got to pay.”

The kids were suddenly more interested. “What will you do with all that money, Mom?”August 2015 090

“We’ll give it to kids who need it. We’ll put it in the globe bank for Children of the Nations.”

Children of the Nations is a non-profit that provides food, homes, schools and medical care to children  whose lives have been ravaged by war, poverty, disease, and death in the Dominican Republic and several African countries. For more info see www.cotni.org

For a while, the Grumble Box filled up quickly. When the kids tumbled down to breakfast, I’d ask if they’d all made their beds.August 2015 100

“But Mom,” one argued, “we’re just going to sleep in them again tonight!”

“Oh dear,” I’d say. “Grab a penny for the Grumble Box.”

“What? ” they’d holler. “All I said was…”

“Oh my—I guess you’d better make it a nickel.”

“Mo-om!”

“You drive a hard bargain–how about a quarter?”

One time I informed the kids we’d be cleaning the garage on Saturday.  “Okay,” said one of the boys, shoulders slumped, “I guess you’d better give me my allowance in small change.”IMG_2367

The Grumble Box proved to be the reminder we all needed to complain less. It became a light-hearted way to remember to think before we spoke, retrain our mouths, and practice self-control.

We also learned to be more thankful for what we had.

Every time we emptied the box into the bank and took the bank to Children of the Nations, we looked outside ourselves to see some hungry child get a full belly, or go to school for the first time, or find a place to belong in one of the small family-style orphanages.

And that was the best lesson of all.

 

 

 

 

Everyday French Toast Moments

Ever had a day when the hurt of the world feels so big it makes you wonder if your little life, your small everyday moments, really matter–when your to-do list feels like a cop-out and your heart screams at you to stand up and make a difference in some grand, visible way?August 2015 027

Intellectually, I know what God has called me to, but today it feels like piffle. At the same time I find myself staring at the vase of black-eyed Susans, dahlias and hydrangeas on the kitchen table because it’s the only tidy place in the whole room.

How can my chores compare to the battles of firefighters?

The moon rose red Saturday from all the smoke, rose above the firs over the coffee pavilion where we listenedAugust 2015 065 to Steve McDonald play Celtic music while forest fires burned out of control on both sides of the Cascade range.

Thirteen firefighters lost their lives so that other people’s families, homes, lands, and forest might survive and flourish. One man with decades of safe firefighting lost his firefighting son last week and wishes it was himself.

We haven’t seen the neighbors for weeks. Both are rangers and firefighters. Lord, have mercy on them. Please protect them. Please, send rain.

While our daughter, son-in-law, and four kids played in the sprinkler and pool with us, banged croquet balls across dry grass, or waded in theAugust 2015 094 low creek, other people buried their sons and daughters who died fighting fires.

I can’t get my heart around that pain. Lord, please comfort those families who have lost loved ones. I don’t want them to think we’re playing at our little mountain cabin heedless of their sacrifices.

I don’t want them to think we take our green-treed butte for granted. Every good thing is a gift every day. Even coughing from the ash reminds that clean air is precious and not guaranteed, that men and women fight to preserve it for us.

Our eldest granddaughter called me on the mountain to say she’d entered Chocolate-Chip Cookies in the County Fair. This meant, since she spends most days with me, I’d have two hours when I got home to bake an entry also, so I’d have a pass to take her to the Fair.

I whisked my Cinnamon-Raisin bars out of thAugust 2015 038e oven with 45 minutes to cool, frost, and deliver. I set up a complicated cooling arrangement in the car using frozen gel packs on a rack over the cookie bars in front of air conditioning vents turned on HIGH. I started the engine.

The cup of confectioner’s glaze dumped over in the car. I saved enough for four bars–the required entry. The hot bars collapsed into indistinct lumps when I cut them.

I know what bothered me. I didn’t merely want to enter. I wanted to WIN. All the way to the Fairgrounds I prayed–Please get me there on time. I thought about whether or not this was a worthy prayer. Was it for my glory or God’s?

August 2015 032Then I remembered all the love funneled into this moment. I remembered teaching my granddaughter how to crack eggs when she was ten months old, how she graduated to French toast and surprised us with breakfast one morning.

Love is what He’s about. Love is what matters. The firefighter who lost his son isn’t crying because his son can’t fight fires anymore, but because they will never again share the small, everyday French toast moments of love that make life worth getting up for.

They’ve sacrificed those for you and for me.

I hope my granddaughter wins a blue ribbon. As for me, by God’s grace, I entered the Fair with four minutes to spare. Then I went home, hosed confectioner’s glaze off the car rug, did the laundry, washed dishes, went grocery-shopping and made dinner–honorable work, holy ground–building blocks for tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I’ll take the girls to see farm animals, carnival rides, and Chocolate-Chip Cookie awards. Tomorrow, Lord willing, we’ll share countless, small, everyday moments purchaJan 2014-Aug 2015 173sed with sacrifices and love I can’t begin to fathom, both Divine and human.

Please pray for firefighters and the families of those
who are lost. Write a note of gratitude to a firefighter or policeman. Then give thanks for all those small moments of love that aren’t so small, after all—
the ones so valuable that, at this very moment, people who don’t know us believe they’re worth risking their lives and even dying for.

How to Make a Luscious Crayon Resist

“And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.” Deuteronomy 12:7

I’ve been a potter, fine artist, and crafter for many years, but no matter how many times I do crayon resist, color and light spring off the page in ways I don’t expect. Then I feel a little bit of the joy God must have felt when He spoke the world into being in all its parts.

And crayon resist certainly proved to be a hit for all the cousins when they visited. Not only do we have happy memories, but some beautiful artwork, as well.August 2015 327

This is an easy project that yields exciting results with the right materials. Whether you’re creating an illustration, objects for a mobile, or a drawing for the refrigerator, a crayon resist will delight and surprise.July 2015 001 (2)

The best part of this technique is the moment you paint over your drawing and see the crayon colors pop. White, as in the flower above, and very light colors, as in the frog, are especially effective, as is a balance of both rough crayon to resist the watercolor and bare smooth paper to absorb it.

How it works: Regular crayons have enough wax in them to make a water-proof tJuly 2015 009extured line to resist watercolor paint applied lightly and only once. (Repeated washing of crayon surfaces with a wet brush will lift the crayon and destroy its resist properties).

You may want to plan the balance of light and dark values in your composition, as well as positive and negative space, or you may just want to plunge in to scribbling and painting. Either way, this is an exciting technique to experiment with. But it has its limits.July-Aug 2015 014

The coarse nature of crayons does not lend itself to tiny details. Too many small shapes will get lost in a cacophony of lines. Too many colors lessen the impact.

For a mobile, make your designs very simple: flowers, frogs, leaves, butterflies, and the like. More complex illustrations, such as this one I did for a picture book, require careful planning and a light pencil sketch.August 2015 008 (3)

Supplies: Regular crayons (not washable), card stock, watercolor paper, or a copy paper with a high cotton rag content such as Wausau 100% cotton stationery (at Target and other stores), watercolor paint box, paper towel, water cup, and thick, soft brush.August 2015 007 (2)

  1. Draw and color a simplified design on your chosen paper. (Elements of a mobile require heavy card stock). Light crayon delivers extra zing when you add the watercolors. Color hard. Leave some paper blank to absorb the paint.
  2. Load a soft brush with water and watercolor of any dilution.  Experiment with both opaque and transparent color, bright colors, deep colors, and black. The important thing is to commit to whatever you choose, so you don’t scrub off the crayon by changing your mind too many times.July-Aug 2015 012
  3. If your resists are for a mobile, you’ll want to cut out your elements after they dry, flip them over, and repeat steps 1 and 2  on the other side.
  4. You may want to spray your finished crayon resists with a fixative from a craft store or heavy-hold hair spray from the dollar store.
  5. When your mobile elements are completely dry, punch a small hole in the top with a hole punch, ice pick, or thick needle and hang with thread or light string. Turn on a fan and watch your dazzling display dance.August 2015 399

When the Leaf Comes Out of the Table

The table is tidy with a turquoise windowpane tablecloth, a bouquet of flowers from Farmer Larry up the road, and chickadee salt-and-peppers perched on the edge of a vintage red-and-white quilt square. Overhead swings the Celebration Branch.August 2015 422 (2)

This one is simply a bare fir branch (no needles) wrapped with burlap and ribbon and currently decorated for summer with crayon resist flowers, frogs, and butterflies, mostly made by the grandkids. It’s all very pretty, but I ache over what’s missing.

What’s missing is the leaf in our kitchen table. What’s missing are our daughter, son-in-law, and four children, who left this morning for their home and ministry to the Ojibwa in Ontario’s far north. Our family table has shrunk. The house echoes.  My heart echoes.

What do I do with the sadness?

For two splendid weeks our home has been abuzz with six grandchildren, sprinklers, water squirters, arms outspread in soaked clothing, giggles, foil packets of campfire stew around the bonfire, tea with sugar cubes, Kung-Fu Panda, backgammon, and popcorn.August 2015 131

For two wondrous weeks I’ve listened to my earnest daughter instruct her children with the teachings of kindness on her tongue, my patient son-in-law lead bedtime prayer and songs, and the kids jockey to pick and eat garden blueberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, and beans.

For two humbling weeks I’ve been enfolded in the holy ground of hubbub--gooey fingers, cranky naps, and bright mornings. I’ve slowed down, sped up, whirled dizzily, and sat in a heap to soak it all in, confess my selfishness, hear God’s voice, and see His face in the faces of others.

I’ve slowly unclenched the fists of my normal two-grandchild daycare routine and settled into the rolling back seat of a speeding satellite sent to unlock the secrets of love and forgiveness in the eyes of six tumbling, grubby, priceless children. My heart is full.

Which was why today, carefully orchestrated as it was, was hard. Very hard.

August 2015 008The adults decided to sweeten the bitterness with a trip to the bakery this morning. It didn’t fool the kids.  All the children in my car said they didn’t want to go to the bakery (and that’s a first) because they knew the goodbyes would follow.

Goodbye for a year–maybe longer. I’m with them.

My heart aches at going back to ceramic plates instead of paper–paper having been faster to clean up so all of us could squeeze in rides on the Green Machines, wading in the creek, and making crayon resists on the kitchen table.

I know goodbyes are necessary. My children have a God-breathed calling and so do I. For them, it’s clinging to Jesus while balancing family and friends as well as running a Christian school, church, and Bible study in a remote town to which there are no roads–only twin-engine planes or trucks when the lake freezes.

For me, it’s clinging to Jesus while balancing home, family, friends, daAugust 2015 212ycare, school activities, church activities, critique group, art, and writing.

All holy ground. So what to do with the weight of good-bye?

I remember the happy faces, shared activities, and time spent wrestling with and resting in, God. With each memory,  I feel the restoration of the visit, the touch of my daughter’s skin, the sound of her hymnal voice, the strum of her donated guitar. I remember.

Family visits are like that–for helloes and I love yous and renewal and strengthening of bonds, for making memories last until the next time God grants us leave to see each other again.

How about you? How do you make memories? How do you make them last?

In the next few weeks, I’ll share fun activities that made this family visit so wonderful. WAugust 2015 409atch for these upcoming posts: How to Make Custom Packets of Campfire Stew the Kids Will Love, How to Make a Celebration Branch, and How to Do Crayon Resist.

For now, I sit at the kitchen table and gaze at the Celebration Branch. I watch the crayon-resist flowers, butterflies, and frogs twirl in the breeze. I’m so happy for the time we spent making them. I guess that’s why, amidst the tears,

I have a big smile on my face.

Calisthenics 2–In the Locker Room

Feb-Mar 2015 018 (2)I’m still wrestling with the whole idea of spiritual exercise. I guess I’m expecting some sort of radiance–you know–like the glow of healthy skin during physical exercise.

So far it’s not radiance but dog poop on one child’s feet, another tattling, two melting down, and me trying to create a quick meal everyone will like when we’re out of cheese, non-grainy bread, and juice.  Which makes me wonder if I’m on the wrong track?

Why does my life seem so small, so tunnel-visionly, so mundane, so “Martha?”July-Aug 2015 059

After I wrote Calisthenics 1, I looked for glorious ways to exercise my faith (the Holy Olympics? The Heavenly Oscars?) Instead, I found myself in what feels like the locker room of life–in the sweat and athlete’s foot and mopping after other people’s showers.

As if that’s somehow less…

I faced a grinning baby with a stinky diaper and his solemn older brother who also had a loaded one. To my shame, I told my daughter about her kids with the diaper needs–my girl who’s a missionary and currently battling an excruciating carpal tunnel.

But when I looked in her face, I saw her pain and exhaustion and longing. That’s when I saw You, too, Lord, hanging on the cross for me and for her. That’s when I thought about “…whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Me.” (Matthew 25:40)

I argued with You, I’m sorry to say. I argued I had dishes to do, and toy pick-up, and a child crying, and I wanted to ice my sore foot. I had a schedule to keep and isn’t orderliness Your way, too? What about margin and balance? July-Aug 2015 060 And You said,

Was it “margin” to go to the Cross?   

When I saw Your pain in my daughter’s eyes, I saw the connection between body and spirit. “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

Body+living sacrifice=spiritual act of worship.

I saw Your cross planted like a fence post in holy ground, with the failures of all Your loved ones nailing Your body to it, soaked in Your sweat and blood, people weeping around You, some fighting over your clothes, and You thirsty, with only vinegar to drink.

Your words cut through the layers to pierce my flabby heart. “I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought…” (Romans 12:3). Ouch.

When living sacrifices change stinky diapers they worship on holy ground before the One who made children and daughters and bodily functions and weakness and strength.

I realize again it is always and ever about You–about seeing You in the face of my precious daughter, in the grin of her stinky one-year-old,  and in the slightly worried look of her equally stinky and larger three-year-old.July-Aug 2015 001 (2)

It is seeing You in the beautiful mundane, in the calling to which You’ve called me today (and who has any day but today)? It is seeing that when I offer my body as a living sacrifice (not a complaining or half-hearted one) I’m standing on holy ground.

Holy Ground.

It’s not mist, or a pillar of fire, or a golden glow emanating from my path. It’s sweat, tears, and praying in the kitchen. It’s stifling the impatient answer to my husband and speaking kindly. It’s being mindful of the connection between bodily action and spiritual worship.

So today when I delayed a chore to push a fussy baby on a trike, when clock-watching furrowed my brow and planted a plastic smile on my face, I remembered Holy Ground. And I looked around and thought, This–this is it.

Then I whispered Holy Ground to the little guy and he looked at me with his big eyes and quick smile, like Baby Jesus in my arms saying, “There you go. You’re getting it now.”1526329_10152095290999214_2084605039_n

He giggled at the ride and suddenly I couldn’t get over the overwhelming feeling of Your Presence–like my chest could explode right there on the back deck. And the radiance I was looking for?

The radiance is You.

 

Apple of His Eye

I c11034920_10153188937269214_2723384077591697003_nolor cardboard tulips on the kitchen table, sunlight streaming through lace curtains, illuminating dirty windows. I make a mental note to clean them tonight. Too much daylight makes glass streak.

I color yellow on the tulip edges so they’ll gleam under the black watercolor as though lit from behind, like my friend Wendy’s fat lambs in the late sun, glowing with halos through their fleeces.

I feel joyfully alive as I color, though my hands cramp and I must rest them frequently. Even the pain reminds me of the splendor of this mortality, that God made nerves to signal pain and pleasure, hot and cold, rough and smooth.

I brush waxy crumbs away and listen to birdsong. As a child I loved the songs of the Bible–the Psalms. Their truth and hope cut through all my pretend–joy, anguish, outcry, acquiescence, and rest–He is God of the real.

A favorite line became a life raft during the worst of the teen years–“Keep me as the apple of Your eye.” (Psalm 17:8)

I didn’t understand the imagery then. But despite feeling worthless and hated by others, I felt special to God–the apple of His eye. I saw myself as a literal polished apple–beautiJune 2015 019fully mottled, shiny, pleasing to hold.

Only later did I read the little footnote that said “apple” meant “pupil.”

The pupil is a hole into the eye.The iris surrounding it is triggered by light striking the optic nerve, and expands or contracts to regulate light as needed.

So if we ask God to keep us as the pupil of His eye, we ask Him to guard our spirits, to regulate His holy light of love and truth that we might always be able to see His path, whether in brightness or darkness. This is an amazing prayer.

The iris widens in darkness, to gather light into the pupil for illumination. Lord, when my soul is dark, open the iris of my heart to gather in Your light. You know how much I need it.

I need Your light when pickle juice spills on clean dishes, when I lock keys, towels, life jackets, and picnic in the car just as we arrive at the lake. I need it for my sore foot at day’s end when the little one wants me to stand and hold her for Rock-A-Bye-Baby.

I need it when I throw out burned eggs because there were FIVE emergencies while I tried to cook them, and everyone is crying because they’re hungry. I need it when the little ones I love wear body braces and face serious surgeries.July 2015 014

I paint black watercolor on my tulips and the waxy color springs to life in relief.

In addition to gathering light, the iris also limits light to protect  the pupil. But some protection is up to us. If we look directly at the sun, its brightness can burn the rods and cones at the back of the eye to destroy our vision forever.

Some people wish for more light, for the light of all knowledge, like Adam and Eve. They want foreknowledge of their futures–poverty, riches, and the day of their deaths. But I don’t want to know. I don’t trust myself with that much light.

I fear I’d turn every thought inward towards how to serve and preserve myself, how to keep instead of how to lay down my life, and thereby miss the joy and pain and real of the present. I want to live all the way here.

I want to watch my granddaughter’s face as she tells me about her new song, her dance steps, how she made a fairy dust necklace for her baby sister who cried because it couldn’t really make her fly.July 2015 048 (2)

The sun shifts. I hang my painted tulips on the tree branch above the kitchen table with frogs, butterflies, burlap, and grosgrain ribbon. The kitchen lies in shadow. I marvel how my eyes adjust. The light has fallen to the other side of the house–perfect time to clean the kitchen window.

Father, clean the glass of my heart. Help me see clearly. Keep me as the apple of Your eye. Hide me in the shadow of Your wings.

 

How to Make a Coil Pot with a Lid

The splendor of clay is its malleability–the ability to mold it into any shape possible. In the Bible, God says that just as a potter can mold clay into any shape he or she wants, so God has designed each of us to perfectly accomplish His purposes.

This project is great to do in a classroom of 4th-6th graders. If youMay 2015 041 don’t already know how to use and fire clay, most schools have someone who does and who can help you.

1. Size and Shape Decide what size and shape you want your coil pot to be. Use a plate, cup, can, cardboard, or other shape to make a heavy paper template–round, heart, square, free-form. For a kids’ class, keep it to 6″ or less in diameter.

May 2015 0312. Base and Lid Roll out stoneware or other clay 1/4″ thick. With toothpick or other pointed tool, cut two identical pieces of clay using the template. Hold the tool straight up and down for the cut. One piece will be the base of your pot and the other will be the lid.

3. Spirals Squeeze a hunk of soft clay to make a lumpy rope. Roll this on newspaper or other absorbent surface to make a smooth, even coil 1/4″ to 3/8″ thick.  Roll coil back on itself to make a spiral 1 1/2″ in diameter. Pinch off extra clay and smooth end.May 2015 036

Make as many spirals as you need for the side of your pot.  Many other shapes can be made as you become more skilled.

4. Scratch and Attach  Every piece of clay must be attached to the others by scratching both parts with your toothpick and dabbing a little water where you want them to stick. If you forget or skimp on this step, your clay pieces may separate in the drying or firing.

I tell my students,  Just scratch and attach only those parts you don’t want to fall off.

May 2015 0335. Top Coil Roll a long coil to top off the spirals. This coil stabilizes the spirals and makes the pot stronger. Scratch and attach. Use toothpick to write your name on the bottom. Set aside.

6. Lid and Handle This is where student creativity can shine.  Dogs,May 2015 034 horses, people, swirls, trees–anything can be a handle as long as it is no thicker than 1/2″ or has holes poked in it to allow air in and make sure no clay part is thicker than 1/2″.  Scratch and attach all parts.

May 2015 0357. Flange This keeps the lid from sliding off easily. On the underside of your lid (being careful of your handle) scratch a line all the way around about 1″ from edge. Roll a coil this length, scratch and attach firmly. Write your name in the interior of the flange.

8. Finish Let your pot dry. Fire to bisque temperature–usually cone 06-04 for stoneware. Dip or brush on glazes appropriate to the maturing temp of the clay (usually cone 4-6 stoneware for electric kilns). Do not glaze bottoms of pot or lid. Fire pot and lid separately (so they don’t melt together).

Drying pots from a 4th grade class
Drying pots from a 4th grade class

 

The Pioneer Potter

“Go down to the potter’s house and hear the words I have for you.” Jeremiah 18:2

You hunched in the car in your pioneer dress, eyes squeezed shut, just returned from the museum with your class and your daddy, having eaten your authentic pioneer lunch with the beef jerky you’d begged me to buy. It had been a wonderful day.

That is, until I menJune 2015 001 (2)tioned the lidded pots. The ones you’d promised to make.

I know how it is. Laying down your life is easier to imagine in the shared laughter, but harder in the lonely slog.

Last week, I’d brought clay to your classroom and talked about the early settlers firing pottery in pit fires. You looked so happy.

Once, beneath the oak tree outside the ram’s pen, we dug a pit in the ground. We lined it with leaves and grass clippings. My students laid their dried pots in the hole, the ones they’d made of raku clay and glazed while wet.

After more leaves and clippings, we piled sticks, hardwood logs, and damp fuel atop to burn slowly overnight.

I told your class we could have used coffee grounds, eggshells, cowpies, or dead fish in the pit fire to make colors on the pots. But if you add salt on a windy day, it can take the paint off a car.

June 2015 041

I didn’t tell them I hadn’t wanted to do pottery with them–not this year. I’d wanted to slump around thinking about my dad’s death, about his birthday coming up, about how the messy house overwhelmed me, and how I still don’t know how to cry.

But I’d made a promise.

When the school janitor showed me the bags of hard clay, I saw hours of work in a hot garage, slicing, spraying, tearing, squeezing, slamming, and kneading the clay to make it workable.

I did it anyway.

It’s like that, you know. Sometimes laying down our lives requires lots of little deaths. But if we give them back to GodJune 2015 002, He can take His giant Potter hands and mold sacrifice into dazzling resurrection–of hope, of joy, of beauty, of perseverance, of peace.

I showed your class how to make a coil box with a lid. You watched with shining eyes, in between listening to your baby sister recite the ABC’s over and over beside you.

But two classmates had missed it all and you, generous heart, volunteered to make boxes for them to glaze. That was before you’d tried it yourself.

“I don’t want to, but I don’t want not to,” you said now, miserably. “It wasn’t a fun project.” I knew that was true for you and I knew why.

June 2015 006While your classmates squeezed and rolled clay in artistic abandon, you’d answered a higher calling–that of Big Sister. Thus, your clay became dry and cracked. You cobbled bits and lumps together. You gave up hope of a pretty handle.

I ached for you, torn about your promise. “It’s up to you,” I said. “They missed the day, and sometimes people just miss things. But didn’t you say you’d make a bird for one boy’s handle and a hollow log for the other?”

Your dad leaned into the car. “Why do you think you should do it–because of guilt?” You slumped in the back seat.

I clutched the steering wheel and prayed. I said, “How will you feel on glaze day if the boys have pots? June 2015 004How if they don’t?”

You pulled and squeezed your face like clay, deciding hard. Your dad said it reminded him of the Indiana Jones movie when the villain opens the Ark of the Covenant.

Sometimes difficult choices squeeze us out of shape. Sometime we become dry and cracked. We need that Living Water Jesus offers–a drink to ease the pain of the cross, to smooth the rough places, to make us soft again.

Then you said yes. My heart swelled with love and pride. I can’t wait to see the resurrection joy in your face next week when those boys pick up glaze brJune 2015 040ushes to paint their very own lidded coil pots.

We made the boxes together on the kitchen table, you and I, laughing and rolling clay. And, this time, you had fun–so much fun you crafted a beautiful new handle for yourself, too.

It has a log and a bird on it.

*Also see–“How to Make a Coil Pot with a Lid”