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I Want to Be a Teacup ….

By Gloria L. Carter, (Sheri’s Mom)

On the evening of Labor Day, September 5, 2011, I decided to have a cup of my favorite tea, Honey Spice Chai.  As usual, my husband, Curt, and I were angry at each other.  Other than spitting out short growls at each other, we had not spoken for three days.  In an attempt to make myself feel better, I decided to have my tea in a delicate and elegant antique teacup.

I poured my tea and sat down in my most comfortable lounge chair.  I took a sip of my tea.  Then for the first time in years, as I held my teacup, I turned it round and round with my fingers and really looked at it as I enjoyed its intricate sculpture of engravings.  As I admired its beauty, I remembered a story I had once heard.  It went like this:

A lovely teacup sat on the top shelf at an antique store.  A lady glanced up at it and exclaimed:  “Oh, what a gorgeous teacup; that’s what I want!”

The teacup replied, “I was not always like this.”

“What do you mean?” asked the lady.

The teacup told its life story:  “I was once just a hunk of ugly gray clay.  Someone picked me up, pulled the pine straw out of my insides, and formed me into a ball.  When she had finished that demeaning procedure, I asked, “Are you finished, Lady?”  She answered, “Not yet.”

She then placed me in a very hot oven and baked me.  That hurt. I had never felt pain!  No matter how much I complained, she kept me locked inside.  When she turned down the heat, I asked, “Are you finished?”  She answered, “Not yet.”

She removed me, and she set me on a table.  I asked, “Are you finished now?”  She answered, “Not yet.”

When I had cooled, she picked up a knife and scraped, chiseled, and gouged me for hours.  Oh, it was painful; I was afraid I wouldn’t survive.  When she stopped, I asked, “Are you finished?”  She answered, “Not yet.”

Then she buffed and sanded me for days.  The pain was considerably less, but uncomfortable.  Finally, she quit.   Again I asked, “Are you finished now?”  She answered, “Not yet.”

She then placed me back into that dark, hot oven again!  “I’m done!  I’m done!”  I kept yelling.  She left me there anyway.  I knew I must be close to my melting point.  She turned the heat up higher and then higher!  I wanted to die, or least pass out!  Finally, she turned the heat off.  “Are you finished now?” I muttered.  Her answer: “Not yet.”

She removed me then and set me back on the table.  And then?  Oh!  No!  This time she was coming at me with a paintbrush!  She smeared that thick, stinky, colorful stuff all over me, making me cough, gag and needing to throw up!  I couldn’t breathe.  When she finally quit, I asked again, “Are you finished?”  She said, “Not yet.”

The paint dried; she set me up on her mantle.  How boring!  I wanted to return to the outside world to play with my siblings in the mud!  So, I asked, “Are you finished with me?”  She answered, “Yes, I’ve finished now.”

For years, I sat there lonely. Occasionally, folks walked by and admired me.  One day, my “designer” placed a mirror behind me so that, I guess, I would look like two pieces of clay!  Later, when I turned around, I saw “a miracle.”  I was no longer that hunk of ugly gray clay.  I had become a perfectly formed, colorful teacup.

The lady that I had believed “had taken all her frustrations out on me” had transformed me into a piece of beauty that folks could see and enjoy.  I looked spectacular … a Work of Art … a Specimen of Beauty … a Perfect Handiwork of the Master!  And I was a vessel from which one could drink.  I was pretty AND useful!

Revealingly, at that moment I miserably saw myself, not as a teacup, but as a chunk of old rustic ugly gray clay!

“I am a Christian,” I quietly said to myself.  “Then why don’t I act Christ-like?  I do, actually … most of the time … except towards my husband, Curt.  Why?  Why do I do that?”  I had no clue!

I had become angry at Curt over the dozen years of our married life.  He has never totally submitted his life to Jesus, and was a daily alcohol consumer.  “HE IS THE PROBLEM!” was the lie of which I reminded myself.  Over the years, I increasingly despised him for acting towards me in the rude ways he did!  “Why won’t he change?”  I wondered.   “Why won’t he accept Christ as his personal Savior and return to the sweet, wonderful, and caring man I had once loved to be with and married?  Doesn’t he know that without Jesus he will be facing death someday?  Doesn’t he understand we can never have a happy home until he is saved?  Why is he so mean to me?  Doesn’t he love me anymore?  Every year seems worse.  What’s wrong with him—is he blind, heartless, or stupid?  God, I have prayed for him for years; when are You going to do something to change him?”

As I continued reading my Bible daily, answers became apparently clear:  “God HAS done things to save him:  (1) He had sent Jesus to die to save him; and (2) God had allowed me to be in his life to show him an example of Who Jesus is!”  How?  By being Like Jesus!  As I reminisced, I recognized that I had failed.  I had not been an example of love; I had been a hindrance to his understanding of God’s Love.  Why would anyone want to know Jesus, or God’s Will for his life, by watching me live my life filled with anger, resentment, hate, disobedience, and irreverence?  (I’m sure that satan had a heyday laughing at my ignorance and belief in his lies!)

I had convinced myself that I was a good boundary-setter; that had been my best excuse for being a cruel and unforgiving person for years!  Personal boundaries work well when they are communicated in love as we do when we’re training our children to do the right things in life’s situations.  But whenever we state our boundaries showing disgust or shock that someone had the nerve to cross the line we set, we intimidate the offender by displaying negative vibes.  Our boundary becomes a negative tool that generates non-acceptance by our victim.  Thus, we can expect fallout rather than changed behavior.  “Constant training” rather than “demanding” is God’s Way of teaching!

“God, forgive me,” was all I could mutter.  I know now that our Loving Father places us in keels at times to burn off contaminations and other impurities we allow into our lives.  Then He scrapes and chisels on us for hours, days, and sometimes weeks to change us into a disciples that He can use for His Glory!  Sometimes He has to return us to the keel for more firing.  Afterwards, He paints us beautifully so that He can use us for His Glory for others to view,

Admire, and desire to be like Him.  And, He never forsakes us.  Whenever we ask Him, “Are You finished?”  He usually answers, “Not yet.”

Time after time, He grooms us for the Beauty of His Work.  We are useless in our narcissistic state of being just a dirty old piece of ugly clay, or as a half-fired vessel.  But oh, what we become when He places His hands around us, refines us, and forms us into a beautifully finished product of His Work in us!  And yes, only then, with prayerful changes do we become willing to help inspire others to want to choose Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior!     ISAIAH 49:2:  The Lord hath … made me a polished shaft.

I am no longer that hunk of ugly gray clay.  Now I am a sweet, gentle teacup that Curt desires to keep and love.  The following scriptures are a few of the truths that God engraved upon my heart as I began retraining myself to live in His Likeness, lovingly, gently, and patiently:

PROVERBS 15:1:  A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.

EPHESIANS 4:32:  Be ye kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving to others, as God for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you.

I CORINTHIANS 13:  4 – 8:  Love is long-suffering and kind.  Love does not envy or misbehave.  Love is not self-centered; thinks no evil; rejoices in truth; and BEARS ALL THINGS.  Love believes, hopes, and ENDURES ALL THINGS.  LOVE NEVER FAILS.

MATTHEW 5:39:  Resist no evil; but whosoever smites you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.

MATTHEW 5:  44-45:  Love your enemies; bless them who curse you; do good to them who hate you; and pray for them who persecute you so that you will be like your Father in Heaven.

LUKE 6:35:  Love your enemies; do good to them; hope for nothing in return; and YOUR REWARD SHALL BE GREAT ….

II TIMOTHY 2:24:  The Lord’s servant must not strive; but be gentle; and in patience and meekness teach truth to all men who have been taken captive by the devil.

No, Curt hasn’t changed … that is, he hasn’t accepted Christ as his Savior … not yet!  But oh! How his attitude and demeanor towards me have changed! BUT I HAVE CHANGED!  It is impossible for us to change another person!  I tried to be Curt’s Potter for twelve years.  It didn’t work.  Why?  Because I’m NOT his Potter; God is his Potter!  But I CAN change ME!  And I did … under God’s Leadership and with The Holy Spirit’s Nudges nagging me day after day!  PHILIPPIANS 4:13:  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Whether or not Curt ever chooses (1) Salvation or (2) to become the sweet and wonderful person I once knew and chose to marry are no longer my concerns.  He once was a kind, considerate, and loving man.  At that time, I chose to become his wife.  Today, whenever my husband rants and raves, usually over some misunderstanding, I do not feel anger towards him.

There is an old adage which says, “Silence is golden.”  There are times when one can say more by being silent.  No doubt Solomon had reference to such when he wrote:  “He who restrains his words has knowledge … [and] even a fool, when he is silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is counted prudent.”  Proverbs 17:27-28)  Therefore, I become silent whenever Curt starts yelling or misbehaving!  I am not responsible for his actions, although he often accuses me of being the SOURCE of his bad behavior!

I also choose to BE a faithful Christian.  Therefore, I choose to BE a kind, respectful, honorable, and loving Christian.  I trust God to use me as an example as He continues His work on and through me.  However God chooses to mold Curt is not my problem; but I will continue to pray.  God is my Potter.  I know that I am a piece of clay that needs God’s constant remolding and refining.

It is an miraculously heroic thing to do to accept Jesus as Lord of our lives!  It is an incredibly  POWERFUL thing to do to accept Jesus as Lord of our marriages!

Today, I am the joyful wife who loves my husband and portrays God’s Love to him.  God did not put me in Curt’s life (to save him); He brought Curt into my life (to scrape, chisel, buff, and sand me into a useful teacup of Love and Christlikeness so that I might inspire him to desire Jesus)!  I am no longer critical of my husband with his egocentric ways and shortcomings.  I no longer try to change or control his habits, ideas, nor lifestyle.  He belongs to God … not to me!  Now he shows love towards me again … because now I am lovable, grateful, supportive, and complimentary to him instead of being constantly angry, hateful, and narcissistic.

In addition, now in our conversations, I don’t feel the need to prove I’m right; it’s okay to be right if we don’t try to convince others.  Eventually, they’ll figure it out on their own … if it’s true!  When I recognize I’m wrong, I apologize sweetly and move on.  Yes, my many practices during my changes were difficult at first; but eventually the rewards outweighed my pain.  Once we change our minds, God changes our hearts; and the end result is that our lives change.

Praise the Lord!  I’m finally “over myself” and back “into Jesus.”

I would now like to ask my Heavenly Father, “Are you finished with me yet?”  But I already know His Answer:  “Not yet.”

Gloria Carter is a wife, mother, grandmother, Red-Hatter, and all-around enjoy-er of the life God has abundantly blessed her with.

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Only The Lonely by Cheryl Baker

“One is the loneliest number that we’ve ever known.”     Three Dog Night

“All the lonely people, where do they all come from?”      The Beatles

Three Dog Night and The Beatles knew it. And we know it. Our head tells us loneliness is bad. Our hearts tell us loneliness hurts. And God Himself told us, “It is not good for man to be alone.” God created human beings with a need, and there is nothing sinful about this need.  God created it and Adam experienced it before sin ever entered the world.

Just as God created the need, He delivered the solution.  God created another person! He chose people to meet this alone-ness need in mankind.  So often, with Simon and Garfunkel we sing to ourselves, “I am a rock, I am an island.” We hesitate to admit our need. God said it is not good to be alone, we say, I am fine hanging out with myself. We lie. Having intimacy with God is essential and central to the Christian life, but we also must be in intimate, honest and vulnerable relationships with other people.

Who are your best friends? Can you tell them anything and everything and get love and support in return?  What groups do you belong to? Are you reaching out to the lonely? Like Barbara Streisand sang, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” Go make friends and disciples you lucky people!

Cheryl Baker

http://www.lifeonlifecoach.com

Customize Your Life: More of What You Want ~ Less of What You Don’t…

Often, when we eat at really nice restaurants we get an excellent quality of food as well as a smaller portion. We often feel very satisfied because it is adequate in portion and calories.

Cultivating simple joys in life was the major motivation for intentionally downsizing my schedule commitments and possessions. I wanted something more in life, more meaningful and more fulfilling. By eliminating the unnecessary clutter and bustle from life, there is time and space for small joys to arise and be fully appreciated for the richness they bring.Understanding what is important in our lives allows us to rid ourselves of the meaningless things or activities that do not serve us well, without remorse.Allow some cushion in your schedule. When we rush, we barely acknowledge what is happening around us and are more prone to elevated stress hormones and anxiety.

Be intentional in the moment.
Instead of always thinking of the next thing on our to-do list or schedule, being present allows us to recognize and enjoy the moments of joy as they arise. It gives us the opportunity to pay attention to details.Go deeper. Greater joy can be derived in our experiences when we do not allow them to be simply superficial. Go deep with it, relish it, and store that moment away in your memory banks. These small joys are the moments that make life meaningful and fulfilling, therefore the difference in living versus living well.

Record special moments.
Journal about the moments that are treasured as a means of refreshing your memory of the beauty and contentment you have experienced around a particular event.

Do things you love.
Take time to ponder what you value and what you are passionate about. If we always do the “what has to be done” list, we rarely get to the “love to do” list. Reassess priorities to provide for productive fun.

Share moments with loved ones near and far.
A note or picture or phone call to connect can be one of life’s special times. Enjoy the beauty of simplicity in important relationships. This can make our worlds seem closer and more intimate.

List the must-dos, need-to-dos, and would-love-to-dos, and make something from each list a daily priority.

Just because a slice of something is smaller doesn’t necessarily mean it’s inadequate. Less is more in more ways than you may think.

Consider what life can look like, if you actually take the time to look at it =)

Sheri Geyer is a Certified Life Coach, Mentor, Writer, Wife & Mom

Visit me at Simple Wisdom for Living

So Which Bird Are You?

During my recent trip to the beach, I took many pleasant moments studying the shore birds. From the silly sandpipers and abundant sea gulls to the pesky pelicans and elegant egrets, I took pleasure in their contrasting looks and differing personalities. As I watched their antics, I had to admit – sometimes with a bit of disgruntlement and other times with a smile – that I, myself, had traits similar to these creatures of God’s design.

My mother, who passed away more than thirty years ago, loved the sandpipers, and I can’t watch them today without thinking of her. They only rarely fly. Mostly they bob, their entire brown bodies leaning forward with tails pointing to the sky, as their small, sharp beaks poke for unseen treasures beneath the sand. When disturbed, rather than spreading their wings to escape, they run. They are quite fast on their feet. But then, sidetracked, they begin poking the sand again as if they just can’t take the time to be bothered by danger. They look happy, cute and content, their rather large bellies making clear that they are finding what they need underground.

I, too, often bob around, poking here and there, searching for unseen treasures beneath the surface of life. Easily sidetracked, I’ll begin one project only to move on to another, and then discover the unfinished one later. I have a laugh, then delve into my original purpose once again. As I watched this cute bird perform its life purpose, I said a prayer that I, like the sandpiper, can learn to be content with where I am at any given moment.

Sea gulls have an interesting trait. When working together as a group, they are strong. They stand tall, eat together, and take flight all at once as if by some silent, unseen command. But if you come upon one standing alone, it is skittish and afraid. It could easily take flight as I approach, but instead it looks from side to side as if wondering what to do. It inches to the right and then to the left as if lost. When I finally pass, it stands watching warily. Alone it has lost its courage. Alone it seems to have forgotten how to act.

When I act alone, without the support of others, I, too, am skittish and afraid. I try first one thing, then another, attempting to figure out what I’m supposed to do. I lose my bravery and feel stripped of strength. God knew that we can’t be alone. How grateful I am when I finally remember to take my concerns not only to Him, but also to the friends He has placed in my path.

Raising my eyes upward, I view a beautiful V formation of pelicans, wings spread outward, gliding in the wind, the perfection of grace only rarely disturbed by a gentle flap of wings. But then … what’s this? One bird veers away, takes a sharp turn and nose-dives into the ocean. The others in the air seem undisturbed, filling in the gap of the V with ease. With a large splash and lots of sputter, the diver emerges and sits afloat, the gulping movement of its throat indicating it made its catch. I wondered if it would ever find its friends again, or if it would simply join another group later.

In life we often fly in formation, finding strength in the patterns of others. Yet there are also times we must veer away, spreading our wings in a differing direction, sometimes feeling quite alone in the process. Eventually we will rejoin our original group, or become part of another – or perhaps we will remain with both. I’m reminded of the scouting song, “Make new friends, but keep the old – one is silver and the other gold.” Each person we’ve known, each group we’ve been a part of, touches our lives and helps us find purpose and strength.

The beautiful white coat of the egret gives it an unsurpassed elegance among the shore birds. Were its feathers not blowing gently in the breeze, one might wonder if this bird was truly real. Its body seems perfect, black beak and legs contrasting to its pure whiteness. How does it stay so clean and white in the midst of such raw nature? As my eyes travel down its sleek legs to take in the full picture, I do a double-take. What? Could this be? But yes, there they are … floppy feet, clumsy in appearance, and yellow! Could such a gorgeous creature truly have such strange-looking feet? I had to laugh.

We all have oddities that are not apparent upon first glance. I’m not necessarily speaking of physical traits, though we have those, too.  All of us have habits, struggles, disappointments and failures. None of us are as beautiful as we would truly like to be. And how often we try to hide those parts of us that aren’t quite so nice! Once I saw its feet, I felt a solidarity with this beautiful bird!

So which bird are you? Are you a bobber and a runner? Do you fly in formation and find strength in numbers? Are you mostly beautiful, yet hiding unseen oddities? Are you afraid when alone, or do you stand with elegance? Do you bravely move outward to dive for your catch? Do you stay close to friends, recognizing your need for their strength?

Perhaps we are all of these. We need each other and share traits with others, yet we are unique and can rejoice in our beautiful differences. We can stand alone, yet we know we can’t survive without the friends God has given us. Give thanks today for who you are, for where you are standing or flying, and for those who stay with you and love you just as you are.

      Kathy Byrne has a Master of Pastoral Ministry (M.P.M.) from the University of Dallas, and is a Life Coach in Loganville, GA, area. Visit her website at: www.OpenHeartLifeCoaching.com

Loving the Un-Lovely

One of the greatest examples I remember, in observing how to deal with difficult people, is that of my grandmother. So many things I say often remind me, laughingly, of how much she taught me – and I believe that more is “caught” than “taught”. I guess the greatest thing that I learned from her is the thing she always said when folks didn’t do right by others. To which she would comment, “If they can live with it, we can live without it.” That has set me free on so many occasions when I felt that someone should have or should not have done a certain thing.

I want to have the mind of Christ when I consider how I should act or “respond” toward others. That is the prayer that never fails me – when I am in tune enough to remember to pray it. Taking it one step further, how can we say we love God if we have ill or unloving feelings toward another?

Loving those who are difficult is perhaps the greatest challenge when it comes to allowing God to channel His love through us. Most have experienced a family member or someone we see on a routine basis, at work or in our neighborhood, that just seem to be filled with anger and unkindness.

An effort toward reconciliation may be in not allowing a damaged or broken relationship to linger. Sometimes, this is impossible. When we have done all we can, we may have to give it up and pray for God to do the healing work. It may be that we’ve learned that doing more and being “nicer” doesn’t bring about the change required to sustain a healthy relationship. Sometimes, it may have very little to do with us and we may only hinder the process by being a constant perceived “challenge” in the troubled person’s life.

We can relinquish them into God’s hands, realizing that He wants “unlovely” people to know Him too, so they can learn the character needed to become a loving person. I can remember many things I said or did that had to be very hurtful to my grandmother, but her love mixed with appropriate confrontation and boundaries, were the constants in my life that won me over. And, they are still the major influence in my life today, some 30 years later.

I am so glad that my knowledge of God and His mercy has changed over the years through a personal relationship with Him. I am now able to understand His love, grace and mercy, toward me, when I was “unlovely” and “un-loving” in my ways. And when I deal with the ones who are hard to love, I pray to be reminded of how far God had to reach down to touch my heart.

I am most thankful, that, in all my stubbornness, some of which I still struggle with today, He never gave up on me. I do recognize that the best thing He ever did, was to allow me to bear the consequences of my choices. It was definitely the shortest path to helping me realize that I was headed in the wrong direction.

And now, my prayer is that as a result of His patience toward me, I might recognize the need in others who may seem “un-lovely”, and, be reminded that I, too, am still a “work in process”!

Sheri Geyer is a Certified Life & Financial Coach, Mentor, Writer, Wife & Mom
Visit me at Simple Wisdom for Living

What is Simple Life Wisdom?

According to the teaching of Titus 2, it is God’s design for women to mentor and encourage other women. It is the express desire of the writers on this blog to offer help, hope and healing for women as each of us grow and learn more about the God who loves us more than life!

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