Kintsugi 金継ぎ

Picture taken by my younger sister

My eyes were drawn to a picture hanging above my sister’s head as we video chatted several weeks ago.

“Are those teapots?” I asked her as I tried to make out the artwork more clearly.

“They’re actually vases,” she responded, placing her phone up to the picture as she continued to tell me about her homemade piece of art. She had set three segments of gold-colored paper in a row then had cut out the shape of vases from patterned blue and green paper. After making three paper vases, she cut each one into several pieces to somewhat resemble a puzzle. She then meticulously pasted the patterned pieces back together on top of the gold paper, leaving just enough room for thin, golden lines to be seen between the cracks. Below the vases hung the Japanese word 金繕い, carefully written by hand.

My sister believed that the English transliteration for the word was kintsugi*, and it was the term used for the ancient Japanese art form of repairing broken pottery with gold, thus adding greater value and beauty to an object. Having been through several hardships of her own, my sister liked the symbolism of this Japanese practice. It was a vivid reminder that our brokenness can lend to something more beautiful once we have been mended.

We ended our conversation shortly after, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what my sister had told me. As the day came to an end a few hours later, I tucked my little one into bed for the night, then I grabbed my phone and got cozy under the warmth of my own covers to research about the art form on my own.

In one video, a restorer named Hiroki Kiyokawa shared about how broken pottery is pieced back together using lacquer, a sap taken from a native Japanese tree which essentially sucks the life out of the tree.1 After the pottery goes through the process of being glued back together and is given the proper time to dry, the crack lines are then coated with gold to accentuate each piece, not only highlighting the pottery’s history but also giving the object greater worth. Although this process may seem fairly simple, repairing objects requires a lot of time and patience. It can take up to three months to restore a single piece of pottery.2

Kiyokawa shared a similar sentiment to that of my sister’s—kintsugi is often seen as a comparison to life itself.3 Everyone experiences brokenness, but we don’t have to remain in that state. We can be restored.

The next few days, I couldn’t stop thinking about this Japanese art. It really struck a chord in me, and I wasn’t quite sure why. I was soon able to recognize, however, that I felt broken at the time. I couldn’t pinpoint a specific reason as to why I felt this way, but I could see how the last two years had taken a toll on me, first due to personal health issues within the family, then because of the global pandemic and varying degrees of loneliness that these two situations brought me.

I felt broken, but in the midst of that, God was offering me hope by giving me a metaphor for my own life through learning about kintsugi, and He kept reminding all the while that He was the potter.

“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

As I have continued to consider what I’ve learned about kintsugi in light of the gospel, I recognize all the more that beauty is not found in the breakage. After all, pottery is not displayed in its broken pieces, nor does it have any use in this form. No, what makes an object beautiful is its restoration, and highlighting the parts where it was once broken only emphasizes how magnificently it has been made whole.

The same is true for us as human beings. We are born broken due to our sinful nature, and there is nothing beautiful about that. We are inherently broken, and we also continue to experience further breakage in life as a result of living in a sin-filled world. But God has made a way toward restoration. Much like the Japanese tree that gives up its life when its sap is extracted, Jesus gave up His life for us, shedding His blood on a cross. Through Him, God has provided the opportunity for us to be made whole from the brokenness of our sin. Furthermore, He continues to offer us healing from any and all other wounds.

The One who created us is more than willing to pick up our broken pieces. He knows the greater story that our lives can tell when we surrender our brokenness to Him, and He can mend us if we are willing, giving what once was broken great value and beauty because of the work of His hands. The story of our scars, therefore, really becomes the story of His restoration and redemption.

Like the sap that is used to piece pottery back together again, the One whose birth we celebrate this month is more than able to hold every broken piece and every single aspect of our lives together. After all,

“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

So, in our brokenness, let us draw close to Him and ask Him for His healing, trusting that all our broken pieces can ultimately become a display of His splendor in us, something far more magnificent than anything we could have dreamed.

*Since writing this blogpost, a friend from Japan read it and noted that the word my sister wrote on her picture is actually transliterated as kintsukuroi. Fortunately, both this term and kintsugi refer to the same art form.

  1. https://youtu.be/r9LMKGte0UU
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid

Nothing is Too Broken

My niece is celebrating her 13th birthday this month, and in honor of the occasion, I wanted to share a children’s story I wrote for her several years ago by the title of “Nothing is Too Broken.As broken as our world is nowadays, all I can say is this–I’m glad that this title is true. I’m glad that nothing is too broken for God and His purposes.

So without further ado, sit back, relax, and enjoy the story! I hope it is a blessing to you today.

Photo by Tim Mossholder from pexels.com

Carianna woke up earlier than usual for a Saturday morning. She couldn’t sleep well last night because she was too excited. Today was her ninth birthday! The smell of waffles wafted to her room, and she went to the kitchen to investigate. There her mom was, making a special breakfast for the birthday girl.

“Happy birthday, my beautiful girl!” her mom, Megan, exclaimed as she rushed around the counter to give her sweet daughter a hug.

“Thanks, Mom,” Carianna replied with a smile.

Carianna helped her mom set the table for her special breakfast, and then soon she, her mom, her brother, and her dad were sitting around the table eating the delicious meal.

The day proved to be a busy, fun day. She and her family went to the zoo with a few of her friends, where they got to go on a camel ride.

Later that evening, after she and her family washed the dust and sweat off from their zoo outing, they went to Carianna’s favorite restaurant and then returned home to enjoy the strawberry shortcake and vanilla ice cream that her mom had made.

As the evening was nearing an end, her family presented her with what she was long awaiting—the gifts! She received a mermaid blanket, hair chalk, and a nail kit.

“Thank you!” Carianna exclaimed, smiling contentedly as she hugged her presents.

“We have one more for you,” her mother stated. She and her father then left the room and came back with a big present that had a bed sheet over it.

Carianna pulled off the sheet to see a small, multi-colored glass table.

“Wow!” Carianna exclaimed.

“Do you remember how you asked me for this table a couple of months ago?” her mom asked.

“Yes, I do!” she stated. “I wanted this table to put my alarm clock on it in my room. I just thought it was going to be too expensive to get as a present.”

“Well, it was a bit expensive,” her dad chimed in as he gave her a hug. “But I worked some extra hours last month so that we could buy this for you. We knew how much you wanted it.”

“Thanks, Mom and Dad!” Carianna exclaimed as she gave them a hug.

Her mom and dad helped her put the table in her room that night, and she put her presents on top of it to sleep with them nearby. Today truly had been a special day. She felt like a princess. And she knew she was loved by her family and friends.

The weeks went on, and Carianna continued to enjoy her new gifts and life in general.

One day, however, all of that changed.

One of Carianna’s friends came over to play one afternoon, and in her eagerness to go outside and ride bikes with her friend, she threw a book she had been reading onto the glass table.

As soon as the book hit the table, the glass tabletop came down with a thud.

Carianna screamed and then started to cry.

Megan heard her and rushed to her room.

“What happened?” she asked with concern. “Are you okay?”

“I am,” Carianna wailed, “but look at my table!”

Megan looked to see the table lying on the floor, in pieces.

“Well, let’s clean this up,” Megan replied.

The two carefully picked up the pieces of the table and placed them in a cardboard box.

“It’s ruined, Mom!” Carianna cried. “My new gift is ruined!”

“Don’t cry,” Carianna’s mom comforted her as she wiped her tears away. “We can still use this for something.”

“I don’t see what,” Carianna stated grumpily, then started to cry again.

Megan held her close and let her cry. Carianna later went outside to play with her friend. Megan had encouraged her to go play. It would be good for her to get her mind off of what had happened. In the meantime, Megan thought about what to do with the broken gift.

Several weeks later, Megan told Carianna, “I have a surprise for you.”

“What is it?” Carianna asked as she looked up from what she had been reading.

“Come with me,” Megan stated.

Carianna and Megan went to the kitchen where a beautiful, colorful vase was sitting in the middle of the table.

“Wow, Mom! That’s beautiful!” Carianna gushed.

“Do you know where I got the material from?” Megan asked her.

“Is it from my table?” Carianna asked.

“Yes, it is.” Megan smiled.

“I love it, Mom,” Carianna told her. “Thanks!”

Later that day, Carianna and her mother picked out flowers from the store for Carianna to put in her new vase. Carianna had never seen a vase so big or colorful before. She absolutely loved it and loved the fact that her mom put so much work into it to make it a precious gift for her. She had the best mom in the world.

A week later, however, when Carianna was hanging a picture on the wall, the picture fell and dropped directly onto the vase, breaking both the vase and the picture.

“It’s no use, Mom,” Carianna wailed. “This gift just keeps breaking. It’s hopeless!”

“It’s not hopeless,” Megan remarked.

“Yes, it is!” Carianna retorted, and then ran out of the room crying.

Megan picked up the broken pieces once again and placed them in the same cardboard box from last time. The pieces were much smaller than they had been before, but they were so vibrant in color that they were beautiful just as they were. Surely, she could still use them for something. All of the sudden, she had an idea. She knew it would take time and a lot of detail, but she was willing to put in the effort.

The weeks passed, and while Carianna was busy with the new school year, Megan was busy working away in their shed on the glass project.

Carianna had no idea what her mother was doing, but whenever she thought about the two accidents that had occurred with her gift, she felt sad. Nonetheless, she tried to focus on her other gifts and her friends and school. She had a pretty good life.

Finally, a month after the last accident, Carianna’s mom approached her.

“Carianna,” her mom said. “Do you remember how you thought that your gift was completely ruined?”

“Yes,” Carianna sadly replied.

“Well, I have been working on something in the shed, and I want to show it to you.”

The mother and daughter walked to the shed, and Megan opened the shed doors to reveal the most beautiful piece of art that Carianna had ever seen. It was a stained-glass window!

“Is this, is this from the broken vase?” Carianna stuttered, barely able to believe what she was seeing. How could such beauty come from something so broken?

“It sure is!” Her mom exclaimed with a smile.

“Wow, Mom! How did you do this?”

“Well,” she slowly replied as she traced the outline of the glass with her index finger, “It wasn’t easy, but I read lots of books and took a class where the teachers were able to help me design and create this, and this is what came to be.”

“Do you like it?” she asked her daughter.

Carianna nodded and then rushed to her mother’s side to give her a hug.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

“I was thinking that we could take out the window in your bedroom and install this,” her mom told her. “Your dad knows how to do that. We would just need to buy a few items at the hardware store.”

Carianna nodded again. She was too overcome with emotion to say anything. She loved the stained-glass window even more than she had loved the table. And she knew that this was an even greater display of her mom’s love to her because she knew that the intricate work must have taken a lot of time.

That weekend, they scheduled a trip to go to the hardware store. However, before they left, Carianna had an idea.

“Mom, would it be okay with you if we gave the stained-glass window to the church?” she asked timidly. “It’s so pretty that I think everyone should enjoy it.”

“Is that what you really want to do?” her mom asked.

“Yes, as long as that is okay with you.”

“It sure is,” Megan replied and hugged her daughter.

Megan made a phone call to the church to see if they would accept the window, and then Megan and Carianna carefully packed the window into the back of their van and headed to the church.

The secretary profusely thanked Carianna and her mom for their generous donation, and then Carianna and her mom stopped by a pastry shop to eat a cupcake before they headed home.

“You really surprise me, Mom,” Carianna said in between bites of her chocolate cupcake.

“Why is that?” Megan asked before she took a bite of her own cupcake.

“Because you can make something out of anything. It’s really amazing. You are an amazing mom.”

Megan smiled at her daughter and then remarked, “Well, nothing is too broken that it cannot be used somehow.”

The two finished their treats and then headed home to a nice and quiet evening with their family.

Several weeks later, the stained-glass window was finally installed at church, making the front of the church look heavenly. Carianna loved to look at the window every time she went to church, and she was happy that she and her mom gave it to the church. It belonged there.

She imagined that one day she would get married in front of that window. In the meantime, she continued to enjoy her family, friends, school, and the other gifts she had been given. And she was learning to be more like her mother—fixing things and making something new out of broken pieces, because nothing was so broken that it could not be used. In her heart, Carianna knew that was true of people also. No one was so broken that God couldn’t use them.