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Last week, I had the pleasure of spending time at the Montreat Conference Center in North Carolina. Montreat is one of those oasis type spots where time stops, people are unusually friendly, square dancing occurs on Friday evenings and conversations renew. IMG_5639This time around, there were a lot of firsts I encountered: the first time my kids had the joy of visiting this sacred space; the first time I stood among a thousand youth waving glow sticks wildly while words floated over each and every one of them that they are the light of the world; the first time I helped create three larger than life banners that would be used as visuals for Sunday worship AND the first time I stepped foot into a pottery studio to create.

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Hannah Garrity (middle) invited Ellen Gadberry (right) and I (left) to work with her on these banners for worship. Hannah is a visual worship artist whose specialty is large banner design!

Some “firsts” we anticipate with excitement… like seeing the ocean for the first time or trying a new flavor of ice cream. But other “firsts” have a tendency to cause anxiety only thinking of them. For many, I believe creative endeavors bubble up this anxiety. And, as much as I consider myself comfortable with creativity… a medium I’ve never worked with causes me to fret. Since I like being proficient at what I partake in, beginning anew with unknown material creates mental barriers. Last week, as I took hold of clay for the first time, fear showed itself in several forms: fear of doing it wrong, fear of making ugly pottery, comparing myself to those around me and fear of being rebuked that I was messing up. As the week progressed, my fears ebbed and I saw clay as a beautiful metaphor for the creative journey. (Isn’t this usually the way it works? When we decide to move through our fear (rather than talk ourselves out of an opportunity), we find treasure. Here are fifteen takeaways from the clay studio. May they bless you on your path:

  1. Centering is imperative. Close your eyes – it helps the mind/body/soul connection.
  2. Both firm and gentle (physical/inner/outer) guidance is necessary.
  3. Slow and steady! One swift motion is able to cause an unfortunate ripple effect.

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    I made this face mask out of clay. My favorite project, I call him Saint IgCLAYsius. haha.

  4. Practice, practice, practice.
  5. Be encouraged – the great creatives around you were once beginners.
  6. Speaking of that, the best teachers are those who remember how it was to begin. Surround yourself with those who breathe life!
  7. Sometimes, all hell breaks loose and clay goes flying; it’s good to have a friend to laugh with when this happens!
  8. Your body is full of wisdom, emotion and experience: use it and let it flow into what you create.
  9. The whole blessed thing is a process! Stay in the moment of where you are; let yourself be okay with where you are.
  10. Listen to all the different voices of guidance: try, experiment, play – then, decide which works for you and go for it… without apology.
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  11. Look around, supports are there for you to use! Go ahead, use them! Otherwise, (physical and mental) sagging may happen.
  12. When pottery is glazed, all the pieces placed in the kiln affect one another through the firing process – similar to how our presence affects one another when we share (or don’t share) common areas. We are all connected!
  13. Transformation in dark, dry, hot spaces is a holy mystery… but on the other side comes delightful divine surprises!
  14. Absolutely, no doubt … beauty is evident in the flaws. Rejoice in the accidents!

    AND, LAST BUT NOT LEAST

  15. What you create is unique to the world… no one else will do it the same as you!
    Stay with it!