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  • Writer's picturejaneboutwell

The Story of the Small Cup

I find my days so full that they pass in a blur at times. I look back and I'm not sure what happened to the hours, what happened the day before. With four children, there are many demands on my time. Although, as my grandfather in law was known to say, “one child takes all your time. Four can't take any more than that.” My heart is pulled in many directions. I'm standing in the midst of a sea of laundry, a constantly rotating task list of dishes, carpool driving, meal making, chores that must be done to keep the machinery of our family, running, all the things that need to be done by me... And then my eyes look above these daily tasks and glance out over the horizon-- I see personal dreams of big things I'd love to do with my life; ideas that are dying to take shape. I long to be a deep part of the lives of my friend’s, giving the time that’s needed to sit with them when they need a companion. It's so easy to become completely overwhelmed at the immensity of things to be done, people to please. I wish I had an ocean of energy and strength, stamina & wisdom to pour out all that is needed for those I love: my family, my community, my city, and into the dreams of my own heart.

And yet I don't ever have enough to give.

My heart sinks with grief and overwhelm as I know my limited capacity for all that my heart longs to do and be a part of, and all the responsibilities that I need to attend to. I think of what a deep well I need to be able to draw from to do these things.

And yet, as I stand at my bathroom sink holding a very small cup, my heart resonates with a deep knowing that I am the small cup. I can only hold so much at one time. Sometimes I charge forth to conquer the day and I'm convinced that I can do far more than I'm capable of. I imagine that I'm like one of those biggie size cups that can barely fit in your hand. It's so huge. It's almost like a baby pool. I could fill up once and keep going and going and going and pouring out into all the places that need my energy, my attention, my work.

But that's not what I am. And I can't change that. As I stand at my bathroom sink holding this small cup - it does not quench my thirst-- I have to refill it. I turn the faucet on and I refill it. I drink some more. Again It's empty. And again I turn the faucet on to fill it up and drink some more.The cup is dear small size; I love the way it fits in the curve of my hand. It was a pottery throwing experiment that I pressed a bird stamp that I had carved into. Later I glazed it with shades of blue that reminded me of the sky and echoed with freedom. And yet it is small with a certain humility about it.

This cup really needs to stay right next to the faucet in order to serve its purpose, it must be filled up over and over again. I realized that when I'm willing to embody my identity as a small Cup I am recognizing the need to stay close to the true source.

I realize that my pace must shift... I must take frequent small breaks to have my cup refilled. It's okay that I can't go long stretches without pause, because Staying in touch with the source of what fills me is not a bad place to be. Being connected to the Maker of all the stars, bubbles, laughter, dragonfly wings and hearts full of love is an invitation worth accepting. 10 minutes spent sitting just soaking up the tree limbs above me, watching the clouds move and feeling the grass underfoot, even just 5 minutes of pause, can quiet and calm the inner turmoil and turn my thoughts to the thumbprints of the Creator that are visible in the world around us and written and pages of the book, the Bible. These are places that fill me back up so that I can pour out again. The closer I am to the source, the more frequently in touch with it, the more the flavor of that truest refreshing spirit will linger in what I can pour out for others.

I have felt the ache of grief over my incapacity, my inability to do all that I dream, all that I can envision. All that I feel is so needed. I have tried to get more strategic in my planning ...if only I get things listed out in just the right way, surely like a rubik's cube, I can fit together a way to do it all, ---but no, it's just simply not possible. And the fight against my limited capacity brings me to a halt again and again, I push myself too far and I end up with a worn down body getting sick with some recurrent shingles, another case of strep throat, whatever the ‘virus de jour’ is that as waiting to hit me when I get rundown yet again.

I don't have the answers. I don't have it worked out perfectly, but the lesson I'm learning from the small cup, is that I'm going to need to lean into how I was made, as a limited being with edges and defined limits. I can allow that to lead my heart toward the limitless source I can connect to, and also accept the purpose behind that. It's never about accomplishing at all. It's about experiencing each moment with a heart Full of love, Eyes open to see what is lovely in each person I can encounter, the world that I live in. Compassionate love toward myself in my own state of limitation. Making a habit of frequently refilling my small cup with visits to the Source.

John Berger quote:

“When I say the first line of the Lord’s Prayer: Our father who art in heaven...” I imagine this heaven as invisible, unenterable but intimately close. There is nothing baroque about it, no swirling infinite space or stunning fore- shortening. To find it -- if one had the grace -- it would only be necessary to lift up something as small and at hand as a pebble or a salt-cellar on the table…”

“Thy kingdom come...” the difference is infinite between heaven and earth, yet the distance is minimal.”

May we let our limitations invite us to feel how minimal is the distance between earth and heaven…may small moments in our everyday- like drinking from a small cup, connect deep truths into our lived experience.

In closing, the Blessing of the Small Cup:

I cannot pour out what I do not have.

May I lean into the reality that I can only hold so much without being refilled.

I am a small cup.

May I make space for rest and refilling, so that I can be filled with the wonder that made the heavens.

May my heart soften at the invitation: “small cup, stay close to the source.”

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