Living Water

A Clemmons Studio Update

A major part of our family’s life ‘on mission’ is Erin’s vocation as an artist. Two weeks ago, she had the opportunity to speak with a women’s recovery home about a sculpture she made, based on the Gospel story of the woman at the well:

I’ve often wanted to write about my ceramics, but the truth is, I have trouble finding enough rhythm in my studio practice to make it happen. I have trouble finding rhythm in most of my life. Rhythm comes in short snippets of time, and usually, if it comes,  it means production in the studio is flowing, not computer tasks. The extra stuff–photographing, developing portfolio/website, writing–just takes a back seat and ends up getting done only if it’s essential. I’ve been so thankful for the extra time while the kids are at preschool. It’s about 12 hours a week, eight of those hours I have Virgil. And there have been several discouraging sick days. Discouraging, first, because preschool is a financial investment for us, and second, because I feel like I’ve failed my children’s immune systems. 

But when things are going according to plan, (and Virgil is a good obedient child when I instruct him to take a long morning nap) those hours are packed full of hands-on making. They’re too precious to be used on extra stuff. So, when to write… I cannot multitask while reading or writing. Unlike my husband who can be fully engrossed in a book while utter chaos is happening around him, and praise the Lord he can. A lot of his seminary work gets done with one child crying at his feet, one climbing on his back, and the third crumpling all his papers. I exaggerate, but not really. So, how do I solve this problem? Get up at 5am, of course. Well, it was 6am, but kids don’t get the memo on daylight savings, so 5am it is. Virgil is often my little alarm clock. He’ll wake up around the time I want to get up. I’ll feed him, and put him back down. Sometimes when I walk by Eleanor and Ames’ room I’ll see the faint light of the book light that Eleanor got for her birthday a few weeks ago, and I’ll hear the familiar sound of pages turning. This girl is unstoppable. We debated letting her have a light because we do actually want her to sleep, but we realized she just reads in the dark, holding the book up to the window to gather the faintest light. So the book light will hopefully save her eyes, at least. 

None of that is why I’m writing now. I’m writing now about my sculpture Living Water. Doing figurative sculpture full time is a dream of mine. Right now, I do it on the side. And really it serves a very important function. Particularly, with Living Water, based on the Samaritan woman at the well,  who is part of an unfinished series on the women who met Jesus. There’s only two right now. The important thing is while I was making the two I have, I had no intention of ever selling them. Any maker or artist will tell you it just makes a difference, you wish it didn’t but it does. It doesn’t mean the pieces you’re selling aren’t meaningful for you. It just means: do it well, but get it done. This mostly applies to functional work. Sculpture can be priced higher, so taking your time is more reasonable. Living Water took a lot of time, she was a therapeutic process for me. She was about meditating of the story of the Samaritan woman and her encounter with Jesus at the well. 

I have a dear friend–a mentor–at church who frequently volunteers at a local drug recovery women’s home, The Foundry. When I told Betsy about Living Water she insisted I come and talk to the women. I was excited by the prospect. I’d really like to get more comfortable speaking to groups, and I haven’t had any opportunities to do so in a long time. We set a date in early October, and I started writing. The more I prepared the worse I felt. Why would these women care about what I have to say? They’ll probably hate that they have to listen to another talk about Jesus. 

I knew I didn’t want it to feel like a Bible study. Bible studies are great, but I’m coming to show them my sculpture, and tell them about it. But also to tell them about the story of this woman who met Jesus. Another tricky part was that I don’t know any of these women, and really don’t want to make assumptions about who they are. I can assume they’ve had a hard life, or at least a hard season. And while I’ve never experienced drug addiction myself, I have had hard seasons. So I wrote it all out, the evening arrived, and here I was–in front of a group of about 30 women awkwardly holding a sculpture. One woman asked if I wanted “something to set that on”, and while she was getting a table, a woman asked, “Did you make that?” At my response, there was a room full of awe. As Living Water was set on the table the table-retriever said, “Wow, it’s even more amazing up close.” So, a good start. I gave my little talk. Each woman was fully engaged the entire time. And afterward the room was filled with comments and questions. Lots of questions about the process, and comments about the connection to the story. One girl pulled me aside while others were getting an up-close view of Living Water. She said, “I’ve been wanting to give up today, this gave me hope.” 

The whole experience was such an encouragement to me, an encouragement to do sculpture. I still think about those women a lot, and look forward to coming back. I’d love to do little classes and get some art therapy going. We’ll see what comes of it. The following is my talk on Living Water. 

Pottery is primarily what I make and sell. Sculpture is more about feeding my soul. It helps me to slow down, pause, and process through life or meditate. And that’s just what this sculpture was for me. She’s titled Living Water. Making her was about slowing down and processing, and even meditating. She’s based off the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. So while sculpting her, I meditated on Jesus’ interaction with the woman.

This started about a year ago. I was in a bible study, and each week we would look at a woman who had met Jesus. We spent a lot of time noticing Christ’s gentle and intimate character toward these woman. Noticing how she responded. Thinking about how we would’ve responded. What would that interaction be like? And we also noticed how these interactions were a part of Jesus’ larger ministry. So that was the motivation behind sculpting the woman at the well–to spend time really learning about her and her interaction with Jesus. I have sculpted one other woman who met Jesus and have dreams of doing a series of them. 

Tonight I want us to do some processing together about this with the woman at the well, also known as the Samaritan woman. The story of scripture begins with Jesus and his disciples coming to Samaria. Samaria being the region containing people who were part of the covenant people of God, but, who, in various ways compromised their faith, and were rejected by the faithful Jews. His disciples went off the find food, while Jesus rested at a well. A samaritan woman came up and he asked her to get him some water. She’s astonished. Likely embarrassed. And we learn later on in the story she’s been with several different men. Jesus reveals that he knows this. So let’s put ourselves in her place–beat down, living with shame and guilt. With, really, no way to have restoration, hopeless. I’m going to paraphrase part of this interaction found in John 4, reading it in first person. 

I came from Samaria to draw water. And a man said to me, “Give me a drink.” I replied, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me. I’m a woman from Samaria.” He answered me, “If you knew the gift of God, and who It is that is saying to you, Give me a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” I replied, “But you have nothing to draw water with, the well is deep. Where do you get living water?” And he said to me, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give her will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give you will become in you a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” And I said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” 

We are desperate without this life source. We are just grasping, cupping whatever water we can find and tossing it into our mouths. Betsy introduced me to a book called A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.  The famous Psalm: the Lord is my shepherd… I read the chapter on “He leads me beside still waters” as I was finishing up Living Water, and still meditating on the idea of living water. The shepherd was leading his sheep down to a cool clear mountain stream. But along the way several stubborn sheep kept stopping and sipping from small muddy puddles likely filled with manure and disease. And the shephard is urging them on: “Go, go, you foolish sheep. I’m leading you to a stream flowing clear and pure.” And still the sheep kept going after the muddy pool. We are those foolish sheep. We just can’t trust that it will be provided. So we grasp and grasp after what we think will satisfy. And we’re left thirsty and desperate. “Lord, I’ve been waiting and waiting. You’ve forgotten me.” 

I know the Samaritan woman felt this way. What was her hope? I’m sure she not only felt forgotten by God, but rejected by him. She’s messed up. She’s given her heart to other gods. She’s compromised her faith, She’s grasped for muddy water. She didn’t trust. She’s guilty of sin of having had many different husbands. Maybe she knew there was supposed to be a messiah coming. She probably thought if there was a Messiah, he would’ve come by now. Maybe if he did come: she was a Samaritan. She wasn’t included in the salvation anymore. So she grasped for her own Messiah. As husband after another came and went, she kept saying: “Maybe this time this man will restore me, will give me hope.” 

Jesus, in this small, seemingly insignificant interaction, has come to declare: you have not been forgotten. God remembers you, and not only that, he wants to give you everything. He wants you to be overflowing with life. 

She goes into the village and proclaims what Jesus has done for her. She’s been forgiven. She’s been filled. She is a well spilling forth with eternal life. Sharing what Jesus has done. The life he’s filled her with. 

Christ wants our heart. He wants us washed in his forgiveness. Baptized into eternal life. 

Very often. I hear Jesus’ words, “The water that I will give you will become in you a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” And I still find myself left saying, “But where, where can I find this living water??” I’m parched. I’m beat down. 

The famous words of St. Patrick come into my heart:

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me.

Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left.

Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise.

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

St. Patrick’s Breastplate

Christ is our living water. We have a well of living water available to us always. There are times when we aren’t being filled from those around us or we feel God is distant. In those moments when we’re exhausted, we feel empty, parched, barren. In those moments pray: “Jesus, I am so thirsty. Nothing can quench my thirst. Give me your living water.” And think about it. Feel it fill you. Physically feel it fill you with eternal life. Fill you with Jesus. 

“O God, of your goodness, give me yourself, for you are enough for me. I can ask for nothing less that is completely to your honor, and if I do ask anything less, I shall always be in want. Only in you I have all. Amen.”


Patience, Presence, Promise

A Last-Minute Advent Meditation

It’s the very end of Advent today, so I’ve more or less missed the window to post this, but thought I’d share it all the same, in hopes that it might be a worthwhile meditation for this Eve of the celebration of Our Lord’s nativity.

It’s a brief devotional I wrote for our church on the Second Coming of Jesus as preached in 2 Peter 3. The Scripture text comes first, followed by the meditation.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder - Hunters in the Snow (Winter) - Google Art Project.jpg
Hunters in the Snow (Winter) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Oil on Panel, 1565.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen

2 Peter 3:8-18

Even in Peter’s day, just a few decades after the Ascension, Christians were fielding tough questions about the promise of Jesus’ return: “Where’s this judgment you all are on about? Where’s this Jesus you claim is coming back soon? Nothing’s changed, it’s all one day after the other, why bother with this doomsday talk?” 

Some two thousand years later, we feel the questions even more acutely. They become the pained cries of our own hearts: Why does God let this show drag on? All around us, the prosperity of the wicked, rampant injustice against the alien and the widow and the orphan, the decay of our frail and frangible bodies. What’s he waiting for? 

Peter tells us: God isn’t waiting at all. He’s at work. 

The Lord isn’t missing an appointment, his clock isn’t running slow. God is patient for a purpose—he’s busy saving us. 

In fact, he is practicing a divine forbearance; he is every day extending new mercies and adding sheep to the fold (you, believer, included).

Rest assured, the Lord will return. And his Day will arrive in planet-melting power and world-renewing glory. All creation will be his refining fire, and all that is not righteousness will dissolve. It’s a fearsome thing we long for—the vindication of Jesus’ return. We hardly know what we’re asking for (see Amos 5:18).

The comfort we seek in the midst of our waiting comes not in the perceived swiftness of God’s response, but in his proven character.  

We’re waiting on the God for whom not only are a thousand years as one day, but one day is as a thousand years. We’re waiting on a God who is more present to us in a single day—attentive to our longing, bearing our pain, restoring us to life—than we could be in a thousand years. He fits a millennium’s worth of love and forgiveness and patience into each day. God is not only the eternal One in whom all time is relativized, He is also the all-knowing One who is wholly present to us, especially in our moments of need. 

We wait on the God who is making us, in our faithful waiting, more solid and more real in a world that is dissolving. 

Today, when inevitably you find yourself waiting for something—a queue to inch forward, a child to put her shoes on, a diagnosis to arrive, a lasagna to finish baking—find in that very moment an opportunity to thank God for his patience which is your salvation, his presence which is wholly attentive, and his promise which will not pass away. 

Florilegium Home Life. Uncategorized


This is the place I’ll collect particularly beautiful quotes I gather up from my studies.


At Home

One part of our vocation is to create and care for a real place on earth.

This is, if I can ascend the learning curve, where we’ll post updates and ruminations on our life at home. What is the shape our life here takes? How do we arrange, what do we built, plant? How do we divide and form and fill our space and our time?

Abandon all hope, ye DIY-enthusiasts, ye life-hackers. Our end is contentment & Sabbath rest, and our means are planned inefficiency and our own (very) unskilled labor.

Already our home has proved unwieldy, and in need of more care than we’d care to give (more on this anon). This has been, then, our first lesson in ownership, membership, and the obligations of home. It has not been a pleasant one. But I trust it will prove a good one.