Thursday, April 6, 2017


She collected vases, Hull vases, if I recall correctly. Hundreds of them. I read about her in an antiques newsletter back when I bought and sold antiques. The reporter reviewed her most valuable treasures, posting photos with captions. He asked her which was her favorite, and her response is what caught my attention. “It’s in my house, on my piano. Would you like to see it?” She took the writer into her living room. There on the dark wood of her piano sat a Bleeding Heart vase. “It has absolutely no monetary value, I know, but it’s still my favorite.” The photo revealed a pottery vase that had at one time been broken into over 100 pieces.
“Someone loved this vase… loved it enough to painstakingly figure out how the pieces fit back together after it was broken. All these cracks represent someone’s willingness to repair something that mattered to them. That’s why I love it."

The late, great Leonard Cohen wrote:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

What is it in us that makes us want to hide our brokenness? It cannot be God-driven. The God I know expects us to be broken. We would not progress without failure. It must be that wicked old Devil who first hissed the word “shame” then gave us fig leaves to cover our nakedness. The wicked one tells us our wrinkles are ugly, and our scars should be hidden. I went along in my youth, but, thanks be to God, I am no longer young.
Last month I ordered a small jar of gold powder on the Internet. I went to DI and bought small pieces of pottery, little bowls and plates; nothing too complicated. On a night when I allowed myself a few hours to ignore other pressing demands, I cleared off my kitchen island and placed a towel on the granite. I wrapped a small black ceramic bowl with linen and took David’s father’s old hammer, raised it to my shoulder, and let it fall against that cloth covered bowl. It broke in a nice pile of pieces. Mixing epoxy in the lid of a canning jar, I scooped a tiny spoonful of that gold dust and swirled it around until it was even. With a toothpick and paintbrush, and a small cup of acetone for thinning, I carefully experimented, trying to keep my beads of gold epoxy even but thick enough to hold the pieces together. It’s harder than you’d think. Eventually I got this:

I have lately had a fascination with the 500-year-old Japanese art form known as Kintsugi.

The symbolism is so lovely to me. Rather than try to hide brokenness, Kintsugi masters use their artistry and craft to highlight the cracks, using gold as a symbol of the divine gift of repair.

Yesterday my cousin sent a picture of my mother with her sister, Becky. I believe it was at my daughter Sarah’s wedding that the picture was taken. I was reminded of the era of my mother’s life when she tried to hide her shame. My mom suffered from Trichotillomania, though she likely never knew the disorder existed. Instead she beat herself up for lack of control. The disorder is an irresistible compulsion to pull out one’s hair. I also suffered with the disorder as a teenager, and wore my hair pulled back to cover up the bald spot that adorned the crown of my head. If you do not suffer from this I suppose you cannot imagine the intensity of the compulsion. To me it felt like that place on my head was similar to the spot on a tea kettle where steam is released. Somehow it relieved anxiety for me. I believe it did the same for my mom. And she had plenty of anxiety in her life. Known in her younger years for her lovely flowing hair, it had to have been a trial for her to have to rat what remained of her hair and pile it over her baldness. Really, she was the kind of woman who would have been best represented with thick fashionable bobs rather than a stiff bouffant. I can still conjure up the smell of her hairspray, plastered on the hair so unnaturally piled atop her head. She was a beautiful woman, and that hair style was not her.

In her waning years, when her brain had suffered a series of small strokes and she was wheelchair bound, she finally, blessedly, let her hair down. Literally. Finally, she embraced the beautiful baldness that represented her humanness and let the hair she did have grow and flow. Her lovely, white hair could finally catch the breezes and be brushed with repeated strokes the way we brushed our dolls hair when we were small. That snowy halo around her head was divine and beautiful to me. Almost golden.
Somewhere in time, down the road from here, I imagine my Master Artist mixing gold with his divinely healing blood. I imagine him taking the broken parts of me and piecing them back together, not “good as new”, but better. I imagine all of us walking around glowing with divine joinery. We comment on the beauty of the brokenness before we even notice the unbroken places. We will, all of us…every single one of us, radiate with holy repair done by the only one who has no cracks of his own, but cares enough for us to fix ours.


  1. Love this! And you. Thank you for your openness, wisdom, love, and perspective.