I was really tempted to title this post Potsabilities, but I was worried that the groans generated by such a pun might tilt the earth’s axis. And hoping to be a good steward in this month usually dedicated to stewardship, I refrained. But really, busted terra cotta pots have lots of abilities to encourage healing and transformation as the women at the Lighthouse learned this last week.

For many of the women in this year-long faith-based substance abuse program, the word busted has other connotations. So when we introduced the broken pot activity all of the women could relate their brokenness to the pot fragments spilled out on the table before them. Gluing their pots back together was the challenge. Especially when the glue intentionally provided takes a long time to set up. Sounds of frustration began to be heard around the room. Impatience was afoot. So we talked about their desire for the quick fix, the temptation for immediate gratification, and the long, slow work of recovery – the need for patience and gentleness in healing the brokenness of their lives. The question before them was if your pot is a metaphor of your life, how does the pot want to be put back together? Every pot became a creative answer.

 Marsha routinely completes all the therapeutic art workshop activities quickly since she leaves midway through the morning to get her daughter off to school. The broken pot activity was no exception. She had reconstructed her pot while others held glued fragments waiting for them to dry. Then in an amazing flash of creativity she’s wrapped her pot in pink tissue paper filling it with brown tissue for dirt. A red tissue flower on a long green rolled tissue stem was about to bloom in her pot. There were plenty of ohs and ahs around the room. And lots of “please show me how to do that.” Our conversation segued into the power of learning from one another that is so helpful in the recovery process.

Marsha’s tablemate, a woman with an amazingly positive attitude new to the program, had her pot completely reassembled when it inexplicably fell apart. Rather than be dismayed, Cathleen, decided the pieces wanted to be rearranged into her image of a safe place like the “beautiful desert landscape of the area around Barstow.” (I know, for those of you who’ve seen what Barstow, CA looks like, you’re probably all saying, “Are you kidding?”) As Cathleen pieced the story of her pot together she told of a cherish grandmother who raised her for twenty-five years. Her grandmother’s home in Barstow had been an oasis, a safe place in the harshness of the surrounding desert. Her heart and mind return to that safe place as she journeys through recovery. 

Tori sat for the longest time before the broken fragments of her pot. She had not smashed the pot into a million pieces; it would have been possible to glue the pieces back into a recognizable pot. But she sat there immobilized. She got up and left the room several times. Toward the end of the workshop I stopped by her table. With a discouraged and defeated voice, Tori told me she hadn’t been able to glue her pot back together. Yet she had carefully nested the fragments on a paper plate before her.

Believing that a pot is “done” no matter how it’s put together. I also know that every pot has the potential to speak metaphorically into the life of its “potter.”  Gently leaning in toward Tori and her tablemate Jeanne, I quietly observed that she probably had done her pot even if she hadn’t glued the pieces together. Knowing that Jeanne was overwhelmed with the requirements of working the recovery program, caring for her newborn and two year old, and completing her share of the routine chores at the Lighthouse, I wondered aloud if perhaps Tori, too, was becoming unglued with all there was to do in the program. When she responded with a tired nod I ventured to wonder if her unglued, resting pot pieces might be inviting her to simply rest, not just do, do, do. Relief flooded her face, tears filled her eyes. She had “done” her pot. It was speaking into her life the need for rest as part of her recovery.

What are the “potsabilities” of the above pots – Blooming, Safe Place and Resting – speaking into your life this week? If you were to image that each one of these broken and rebuilt pots had something to speak into you life, what would they say? If you were to retitle each of these pots, what would you rename them? If you embraced these pots as your own, what difference might their metaphor mean to you?

I’m looking forward to how you engage these busted pots.

PS – For those of you interested in a more detailed use of the art activity, it can be found in both of my resource books available in my Website Store



6 comments to Busted

  • Deanna J Bowling

    I like the pot with the one flower.

    It reminds me of a conversation I had with one of the other 12 steppers after one of my earlier Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings. I asked how [you] got well, not having patience as one of my main components.

    The person replied that the following was the best explanation that they could come up with at the moment: Rarely can a person when wanting to re-decorate their entire house, is able to replace everything at once. The best way to start was to change out one of the flowers in any given arrangement — then the second — then the third. Otherwise said, by taking one step at a time.

    Love, hugs and prayers,


  • Great article. Breaking pots has had a big impact in my life.

  • Robyn

    Dear Lynne and Lighthouse artists,

    This is a very important metaphor. The most courageous act in life can be to admit that something is broken and then to decide to try to put it back together. Owning/confessing the brokenness risks shame; deciding to rebuild commits to work (sometimes really hard work, which can lead us into tasks we don’t know how to do); intent rebuilding can mean an occasional audience while we’re at work (an audience means potential questions or advice). There’s a LOT of risk in this. I am so very very impressed by the courage of the Lighthouse women.

  • Karen Fuller Mauro

    Deanna’a comments resonate strongly within me today. As I rearrange flower boquets and assimilate all of our outdoor potted plants into the decor of our little house so they can continue to grow during the coming winter. (9 of our 3 gallon sized pots are actually from just one floral arrangement we got as a gift when Rick’s mom passed away last year) Separating and repotting rock roses, dwarf palms, ivy, lilies (and other types of plants I don’t know the names of)in the beginning of Spring was quite a task. At first I just thought I’d put all the potted plants in the sitting room and guest room of our house, but since I think some of the plants need more light than that area of the house can provide, I’ve been moving them around to different places of our dining room and living room. This sometimes means moving floor and table lamps, accent tables, etc. But, now I’ve got Christmas on my mind, so now I’m thinking how all that’s going to fit into the mix. I usually set up a forest of decorated mini table trees (each tree with a color and theme.

    And I’m doing all of this while I should be studying for a huge test I’m taking next Sat. :-). I’m thinking I can probably pass the test if I were to take it now. But, since the test comprises about 12 essays and about 50 multiple choice “Choose the best answer” type that are way harder than they look, and I’ve only got two hours to complete it, I could be at least be doing timed tests right now instead of using “decorating house” as a means of procrastination.

    I say all this now because I could not even imagine being at the place I am at now five years ago. And it hasn’t been that long since I perhaps was at where Tori is right now.

    Not sure if it even matters now the causes, but if so, in a nutshell, they were most probably due to the natural consequences of my wrong choices, wrong thinking, ignorance, selfishness and fear. In addition to all these things, also think my feeling like I was “shattered into a million pieces with overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, despair and angst was due to a prayer request I prayed for about five years prior to this time of my life. I asked God to ” make my faith real so I have a heart-level understanding of His word and not just a mental understanding of it. In retrospect, not a prayer I’d want to pray without adding “and if possible, could I not have to learn this the hard way”.

    It took awhile to see this prayer in the process of being answered. He brought me to a place in life when I had nothing but His Word and my faith to hang on to. At one point, I actually did think I had died and I was experiencing eternal damnation. This brought on as close to knowing at a heart level what God’s Word does describe as Hell, as I would ever like to experience again. But my “little mustard seed of faith” mixed with a little bit of reason kicked in and I thought to myself: “But, I can’t be in hell, I am a Christian” and began rehearsing John 3:16: “For God so Loved the World That He Who Believes in Me Shall Not Perish, but Have Everlasting Life”. I must have said this verse over a hundred times for its reality to sink in. But, finally, my belief in these words from my heart with consequent thoughts/actions brought me to the place where I experienced first hand how powerful God’s word actually is and that God truly means everything He says and promises.

    Perhaps the women at the Lighthouse can learn vicariously through this. The counsel I received, the bible studies I had done and the lessons learned from outstanding Bible teachers became a part of me much more deeply than they had been prior to this very dark phase of my life. And I feel like the Lord has given me a freedom that I would never had had if He didn’t allow the dark shattered phases in my life.

  • Deanna J Bowling

    Karen, you are in my thoughts and prayers.

  • Barbara Price Davis

    I just finished this project with my Youth Bridge boys. As usual, they blew me away. One built a mountain, representing his struggle with addiction and the climb he had to make towards recovery. I asked him to put himself on the mountain, and he put himself halfway down the other side because he was almost ready to go home. Another boy glued his pieces to the paper plate to represent that “he needs lots of support”. Another just piled his pieces in a mound and covered them with glue. He said that this is where he is in his recovery–he still has no idea what he’s doing and he’s just trying to keep everything together until he does. He is “a mess”.

    The Potsabilities of this project are amazing. Love love love that you taught it to me. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>