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But Then, Daffodils

April 18, 2024

Jordan Durbin

Cultivating a Maker’s Life is a column that explores creative living expressed in a whole life. Generous, creative living is not something that is confined to a studio or workspace.  It is conceived in the garden, gestates on hiking trails, nurtured in cinnamon-scented ovens, and matures at family dinner conversations.  Come with me while we explore all the stages of making and living.

In the midst of mental, financial, emotional, and physical turmoil, I would have expected my own creative work to look ragged and raw, too. As chaos has run rampant through my days, it seems that chaos would reign in my studio as well. After all, in the last month, we have stumbled from one near-disaster to another. We are pressed down, but not destroyed.  

On a particularly cold Friday, replete with falling snow, I perceived a curious smell in our house. It was almost gas, but not quite. Being unable to place my finger exactly on the aroma, I called the gas company with my suspicions and threw the children out of the house as a precaution. “I’m not reading gas in your house,” quoth the gas company upon arriving —(yay!)—“but carbon monoxide. In fact, you should go back outside immediately.” (Wait, what?) This, of course, was the coldest weekend of the entire winter. For three days and three nights, I sat by our wood burning fireplace, trying to keep our water lines and toes from freezing. We didn’t really have enough firewood, but the kindness of neighbors and friends from church met that need.  

The following week, my husband’s brakes decided they had lived a full life and retired to that great parking lot in the sky. By grace, he was less than a half mile from home. Upon further investigation, not only his brakes, but the entirety of his truck’s frame was completely decayed.  

Once a new furnace was installed in our house, things started to thaw out, but with that, I noticed a hissing noise coming from either our refrigerator or freezer. I couldn’t see or feel anything; my parents, who were visiting from Georgia, surmised that it was probably the compressor to one of these items. However, a couple of days later, I saw water dripping from just above the foundation on the outside of the house opposite of where these appliances sit. The waterline to the ice maker had frozen over the weekend and formed a hole, spraying down a goodly portion of floor and wall, but our refrigerator was fine.  

While examining the ice maker problem, I discovered six inches of water in our dungeon basement because our sump pump had called it quits. This, in turn, made our water heater decide it needed a vacation.  

But then, daffodils. Golden, ruffled, lighter-than-air daffodils planted themselves gracefully into the clay, sprouting from every piece I made in the following weeks. Normally, when I plan and design a collection of pottery, I’ll begin with my sketchbook and a tentative piece or two. But this spring, I had no plan, no designs, no ideas or inspiration. In fact, for the first time since I touched clay in college, my creative well felt muddy and stale. On a whim and without a plan, I threw a teacup and altered it so that it ruffled at the rim. Something in its form reminded me of a daffodil. And from that moment, daffodils sprang from the very soil of the testing and trials that filled every other part of my world. They swirled and danced with a lightness that astonished even me, the carver! How can mud be so lovely?

In the beginnings of the Gospel, Jesus does not appear dressed in flowing robes and spouting poetry. He has no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him (Isaiah 53:2, ESV).  He is not born into a glowing Dutch Renaissance painting, but into a world of infanticide and Roman oppression and crucifixions. In fact, the ancient Roman world He entered refined the art of pain and suffering so much that it changed history.  

Christ does not walk splendidly into the gold-lined Holy of Holies and pour out His blood in a dramatic theatrical performance. Rather, He is stripped naked, torn open, forced outside of town, scorned, and nailed to a splintered beam with angry spikes. It’s not a pretty picture—rusted iron and ragged wood tearing into human flesh. How can blood be so lovely?

But then, daffodils.  

We look at this horrifying picture with awe and rejoicing. What should be chaos and turmoil and anguish and angst is the grace. That blood, more precious than the blood of goats and rams, is our only hope. It means that the King of the Universe chose us when no one would have chosen us. That tomb, of all things, dances and sways with lightness.

The skies are heavy and gray. This winter didn’t even give us much snow, which is the redeeming beauty of winter, offering sledding and consecrated snowballs. It has just been icy cold and blech. January truly felt a year long, erasing memories of Advent glories.  

But as my daughter and I returned from a cold run yesterday and walked up the driveway, the hard, dull ground revealed that all was not as it seemed. Pushing up through last year’s dead leaves and mulch and frozen earth are daffodils. 

The featured image is courtesy of Julie Jablonski and is used with her kind permission for Cultivating.


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