Thursday, March 28, 2019

#89 Backstory of the Poem "Clay for the Potter' By Belinda Bourgeois

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***This is the eighty-ninth in a never-ending series called BACKSTORY OF THE POEM where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific poem and how the poet wrote that specific poem.  All BACKSTORY OF THE POEM links are at the end of this piece. 
All images are given copyright permission by Belinda Bourgeois unless otherwise noted.
#89 Backstory of the Poem “Clay for the Potter”
by Belinda Bourgeois
Can you go through the step-by-step process of writing this poem from the moment the idea was first conceived in your brain until final form? I began jotting down a few words here and there at work. When I came home I sat down with the laptop and wrote it in a matter of several hours. 
I must confess that “Clay for the Potter” is my most heartfelt poem. I’ve written a few through the years, but none puts things into perspective for me like this one. Little did I know that this poem was the beginning of a journey….One of great discovery! It began the very moment that I surrendered to the Potter. It was then that I stood on the Potter’s Wheel to be shaped and molded into His creation, not mine. 

Over the coming days, weeks, and years a transformation ensued. My true identity was being revealed. The invisible mask of pretense I had worn for a lifetime was coming off. There were lines and cracks within the clay you see, but they were each one unique to me. Simply, they were everyday reminders of the storms, valleys, and circumstances that my God had brought me through. 
I found that in my weakest moments that He was making me strong. So, to say that I wrote this poem, “Clay for the Potter” in a matter of hours would be factual, but in all actuality, it took me a life time. Every climbed mountain….Every deep and lowly valley….Each one was a stepping stone leading me to The Potter’s Wheel to be clay in the master’s hand. 

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem? And please describe the place in great detail. There are certain memories that are forever etched within your heart. Writing “Clay for the Potter” (written in 2017) is without doubt one of those memories. I work in the counseling dept. at a large high school and I remember well my thoughts that day. 
My mind was whirling like a leaf in the wind. Pieces of the poem began to formulate, but penning them into words would come later. Nothing would’ve made me any happier than stopping and writing my thoughts on paper, but duty called. Work would take precedence, at least for the moment. I certainly didn’t linger after work. 
I found myself making a bee line towards home and to my place of inspiration. It is far from eloquent, but instead cozy, rustic, and very simplistic. It’s my thinking chair….Where my poems and devotions come to life! If only it could talk. My old chair could expose my soul. It has heard my prayers, caught my tears, and felt my pain. 
The very fibers within the arms and cushion contain my DNA. They are woven and imbedded within its brown and woolen fabric. I could find more elaborate places to think and meditate, but there’s just something about this piece of furniture that’s near and dear to my heart. We have joined together….Like two trees intertwining. I’ve become a part of it and it has become a part of me.

What do you want readers of this poem to take with them? I’m so thankful for the gifting and talents that God has given me. I can promise you that I don’t take any one of them for granted. I find it to be a great honor when He plants a word inside of me. 

In turn, I strive to plant a seed in others about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Whether in the form of a poem or a daily devotion, my desire is to pen it just as it was intended by God.  This particular poem, “Clay for the Potter,” moved me in a profound way. It opened my eyes to the truth….That we are all His creation! What’s required on our part is complete surrender. When we relinquish the reigns to God, it’s then we become the clay. We stand on His wheel to be shaped and molded into a new creation. 

My solemn prayer is that every reader will become that clay for the Potter – to be worked and kneaded into whatever shape is desired by Him. Your lines and cracks are unique to you. See, no two will ever be the same. The scripture says, “We are fearfully and wonderfully made,” so let Him create within you a masterpiece.

Which part of the poem was the most emotional for you to write and why? Every word speaks to my heart. It touches me in ways that words could never eloquently describe. In fact, like I stated earlier it’s my most heart-felt piece, but one sentence stands out above all others. It’s the part that says this: “So, examine these places within my clay, and listen well to what they say.” Hear the wisdom within these words. There’s a message here within this short and defined sentence. We make mistakes on this journey called life. I’ve certainly made my fair share. 
When I reflect back on the roads traveled, I simply shake my head in awe and wonder. Many of these roads were never meant for traveling. Yet, through the love, mercy, and grace of our heavenly father he made my path straight. Like that old saying says, “Hind sight is twenty-twenty.” Take heed to your elders. Listen to their testimonies. There is much wisdom to be gained from their stories. (Right: Copyright attribution and permission granted by Christal Ann Rice Cooper)
We could save ourselves lots of headaches and heartache if we would just surrender. What do we have to lose? If heaven and hell are non-existent then we lose nothing, but if they exist what then? I would rather go through life living for God than to discover at the end of my journey that heaven and hell are real and I lose my soul. This is why this sentence in the poem stands out to me above all others.

Has this poem been published before? And if so where? “Clay for the Potter” is an unpublished piece of poetry. If it’s God desire for it to be published I welcome it whole heartedly. If not, my prayer is that whoever reads it through this blog will be touched in a special way.


Upon the potter’s wheel I stand,
A piece of clay in the master’s hand.
Lines and cracks there may be,
But without them there,
I wouldn’t be me.
So, examine these places within my clay,
And listen well to what they say.
I’ve walked in valleys,
And felt their pain,
Yet, through each one there was gain.
I’m still here upon his wheel,
A piece of clay for him to build.
Shape me, mold me,
Make me strong,
Place inside me a brand new song.
It’s your holy presence that I seek,
Come before me,
Make me meek.
Draw me in,
Please, hold me tight,
Never lose me from your sight.
It’s you I trust Lord,
With my whole being.
For I walk by faith,
And not by seeing.
So, upon your wheel I firmly stand,
A piece of clay in your great hands.

My name is Belinda Stedman Bourgeois and I was born in the small, rural town of Saint Pauls, North Carolina. In fact, I still currently call it my home. This was once a thriving mill town, but the textile mills of yesterday have longed since disappeared.  During its peak, most of Saint Paul’s residents found employment within one of the two plants….My parents included! We were poor by society’s standards, but wealth can’t be measured by material things….Or at least not through my eyes! Our family had unity, love, and God in the center of our home. Call me crazy, but this was wealth. What we possessed and still possess is priceless.
       Life wasn’t easy on the mill hill, but I wouldn’t change a thing about my childhood. Neighbors were like family. See, it was commonplace during my generation to visit and fellowship. We laughed, broke bread together, and lent helping hands. It was simply a neighborhood of good, hard working people who depended on each other, but most of all, they depended on God to make it through all life’s challenges. 
I experienced Christian values first-hand. My parents lived what they preached. It was their lifestyle that shaped and molded my life. My childhood on the mill hill made a lasting impression as well. I was taught the value of friendship, togetherness, and making each day count. I’ve made many mistakes along the way, but what was instilled as a child made a lasting impression then and in the days to come. 
Our roots are not always immediately embraced, but they will eventually come to our remembrance. It’s like the good book says: (PROVERBS 22:6 KJV) “TRAIN UP A CHILD IN THE WAY HE SHOULD GO; AND WHEN HE IS OLD, HE WILL NOT DEPART FROM IT.” (Right: Belinda in elementary school) (And Below:  Copyright attribution and permission granted by Christal Ann Rice Cooper)

Marriage took me away from my little town for some years. I was raised in a Christian home, but I had never personally accepted Christ into my heart. My role models were no longer before me. It was now my responsibility to live in a manner taught by my parents, but I failed miserably. I wasn’t a bad person, but my lifestyle was a far cry from the morals and values taught by my mother and father. Sometimes it takes the storms in life for us to find our way home. (Left:  Belinda's Bible)
It’s so amazing how God uses people. He certainly used my mother to make a lasting impact. It was through her sickness that I drew closer to my heavenly father. I remember the news like it was yesterday. It was a mass and located on my mother’s right ovary. None of us could imagine the fourteen-year journey that was about to ensue. Her cancer was one of the turning points toward my surrender to Christ. She was given a 3 year prognosis, but her fight to live gave us fourteen years with this blessed and faithful saint. If ever there was a woman of God, it was my mother Shirley Hill Stedman.  (Above Right:  Belinda's parents)
She fought like a soldier. Even on her hardest days, it was us who left encouraged. Momma had the sweetest and kindest spirit of anyone. Each time the cancer went into remission we praised God and upon its return we trusted Him. It was through watching her journey and how she carried herself that impacted my life. I saw such strength and confidence within this woman. (Left: Belinda's mother Shirley taken the same year she was diagnosed with cancer)
We don’t realize our capabilities until that pivotal moment. It’s when we face our storms and trials that what we carry inside comes forth. I saw it within my mother, and discovered it within myself. It wasn’t something I recognized immediately, but I can reflect upon it now and see the strength. 
Finding yourself as a single parent is hard, but abandonment makes it even harder. I could describe in great detail every word and action, but for what purpose? It’s been a process to say the least, but with God’s help I’ve finally found forgiveness. Let me be the first to say that I’m imperfect. I made mistakes and still do. I could’ve done some things differently, but I’ve asked God and him for forgiveness. It’s been quite the journey, but I’ve grown and matured through every step. There have been many valleys along the way, but the mountain top is coming. In fact, I find myself in mid-climb. Me and my son both should be statistics….And not the good ones mind you! Instead, we have found blessings and favor from God. I haven’t always lived the Christian life, but I now work diligently toward patterning my life with God, church, and people who are true spirit-filled believers of Christ.
Writing and journaling has helped me release my pain. The day He awakened my gifting to bring words to life will forever be etched inside of my heart. September 14, 2014 was that day. I can describe it with the greatest of detail. The praise team was singing “Let it Rain.” I felt something inside directing me to go forward. I remember leaving my pew and walking toward the altar. God met me there and wisped me away to his secret place. Nothing mattered except for his presence. It was as if “Holy Rain” had fallen upon me. It was afterwards that this burning desire to write had awakened with me. I’ve been writing since this date and sharing God’s word through devotions and poetry. I’m so thankful for his gifting. I find it to be a great honor when God speaks to my heart and gives me words to share with the people around me. (Left:
I’ve questioned for many years my true purpose here. What is it that I was created to do? What is the plan that God has for my life? I have a heart for broken women. I understand their pain. After all, I’ve experienced plenty of it myself. I will begin classes soon in Biblical Studies with a concentration in Christian Counseling. I remember my pastor asking me this question one day. He said, “Belinda, what is your first love?” I couldn’t immediately answer his question, but instead I pondered over his words for days. All of sudden, it was like a lightning bolt had struck me down. I remembered the one thing that gave me such a feeling of fulfillment. It was when I spoke to our women’s ministry group. What started as a short ten-minute devotion changed to a thirty minute motivational speech. I’m still reminded to this day of its impact….How God purposed my words! Let me be clear. It’s nothing that I can take credit for.(Above Left:  Belinda teaching Bible Study at the women's ministry of her church)
 Instead, I thank God for using me and speaking through me. I was simply a willing vessel. I was clay on the potter’s wheel to be shaped and molded by him. I’m still that clay in His hands. He’s constantly working and kneading me into a new creation. He’s creating a masterpiece. My prayer is that you will allow him to create a masterpiece in you! Remember, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made” and you are loved by our heavenly father.  (Right:  Belinda reading her Bible.  Copyright permission granted by Belinda Bourgeois for this CRC Blog Post only)


001  December 29, 2017
Margo Berdeshevksy’s “12-24”

002  January 08, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “82 Miles From the Beach, We Order The Lobster At Clear Lake Café”

003 January 12, 2018
Barbara Crooker’s “Orange”

004 January 22, 2018
Sonia Saikaley’s “Modern Matsushima”

005 January 29, 2018
Ellen Foos’s “Side Yard”

006 February 03, 2018
Susan Sundwall’s “The Ringmaster”

007 February 09, 2018
Leslea Newman’s “That Night”

008 February 17, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher “June Fairchild Isn’t Dead”

009 February 24, 2018
Charles Clifford Brooks III “The Gift of the Year With Granny”

010 March 03, 2018
Scott Thomas Outlar’s “The Natural Reflection of Your Palms”

011 March 10, 2018
Anya Francesca Jenkins’s “After Diane Beatty’s Photograph “History Abandoned”

012  March 17, 2018
Angela Narciso Torres’s “What I Learned This Week”

013 March 24, 2018
Jan Steckel’s “Holiday On ICE”

014 March 31, 2018
Ibrahim Honjo’s “Colors”

015 April 14, 2018
Marilyn Kallett’s “Ode to Disappointment”

016  April 27, 2018
Beth Copeland’s “Reliquary”

017  May 12, 2018
Marlon L Fick’s “The Swallows of Barcelona”

018  May 25, 2018

019  June 09, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “Stiletto Killer. . . A Surmise”

020 June 16, 2018
Charles Rammelkamp’s “At Last I Can Start Suffering”

021  July 05, 2018
Marla Shaw O’Neill’s “Wind Chimes”

022 July 13, 2018
Julia Gordon-Bramer’s “Studying Ariel”

023 July 20, 2018
Bill Yarrow’s “Jesus Zombie”

024  July 27, 2018
Telaina Eriksen’s “Brag 2016”

025  August 01, 2018
Seth Berg’s “It is only Yourself that Bends – so Wake up!”

026  August 07, 2018
David Herrle’s “Devil In the Details”

027  August 13, 2018
Gloria Mindock’s “Carmen Polo, Lady Necklaces, 2017”

028  August 21, 2018
Connie Post’s “Two Deaths”

029  August 30, 2018
Mary Harwell Sayler’s “Faces in a Crowd”

030 September 16, 2018
Larry Jaffe’s “The Risking Point”

031  September 24, 2018
Mark Lee Webb’s “After We Drove”

032  October 04, 2018
Melissa Studdard’s “Astral”

033 October 13, 2018
Robert Craven’s “I Have A Bass Guitar Called Vanessa”

034  October 17, 2018
David Sullivan’s “Paper Mache Peaches of Heaven”

035 October 23, 2018
Timothy Gager’s “Sobriety”

036  October 30, 2018
Gary Glauber’s “The Second Breakfast”

037  November 04, 2018
Heather Forbes-McKeon’s “Melania’s Deaf Tone Jacket”

038 November 11, 2018
Andrena Zawinski’s “Women of the Fields”

039  November 00, 2018
Gordon Hilger’s “Poe”

040 November 16, 2018
Rita Quillen’s “My Children Question Me About Poetry” and “Deathbed Dreams”

041 November 20, 2018
Jonathan Kevin Rice’s “Dog Sitting”

042 November 22, 2018
Haroldo Barbosa Filho’s “Mountain”

043  November 27, 2018
Megan Merchant’s “Grief Flowers”

044 November 30, 2018
Jonathan P Taylor’s “This poem is too neat”

045  December 03, 2018
Ian Haight’s “Sungmyo for our Dead Father-in-Law”

046 December 06, 2018
Nancy Dafoe’s “Poem in the Throat”

047 December 11, 2018
Jeffrey Pearson’s “Memorial Day”

048  December 14, 2018
Frank Paino’s “Laika”

049  December 15, 2018
Jennifer Martelli’s “Anniversary”

O50  December 19, 2018
Joseph Ross’s For Gilberto Ramos, 15, Who Died in the Texas Desert, June 2014”

051 December 23, 2018
“The Persistence of Music”
by Anatoly Molotkov

052  December 27, 2018
“Under Surveillance”
by Michael Farry

053  December 28, 2018
“Grand Finale”
by Renuka Raghavan

054  December 29, 2018
by Gene Barry

055 January 2, 2019
by Larissa Shmailo

056  January 7, 2019
“The Seamstress:
by Len Kuntz

057  January 10, 2019
"Natural History"
by Camille T Dungy

058  January 11, 2019
by Brian Burmeister

059  January 12, 2019
by Clint Margrave

060 January 14, 2019
by Pat Durmon

061 January 19, 2019
“Neptune’s Choir”
by Linda Imbler

062  January 22, 2019
“Views From the Driveway”
by Amy Barone

063  January 25, 2019
“The heron leaves her haunts in the marsh”
by Gail Wronsky

064  January 30, 2019
by Terry Lucas

065 February 02, 2019
“Summer 1970, The University of Virginia Opens to Women in the Fall”
by Alarie Tennille

066 February 05, 2019
“At School They Learn Nouns”
by Patrick Bizzaro

067  February 06, 2019
“I Must Not Breathe”
by Angela Jackson-Brown

068 February 11, 2019
“Lunch on City Island, Early June”
by Christine Potter

069 February 12, 2019
by Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum

070 February 14, 2019
“Daily Commute”
by Christopher P. Locke

071 February 18, 2019
“How Silent The Trees”
by Wyn Cooper

072 February 20, 2019
“A New Psalm of Montreal”
by Sheenagh Pugh

073 February 23, 2019
“Make Me A Butterfly”
by Amy Barbera

074 February 26, 2019
by Sandy Coomer

075 March 4, 2019
“Shape of a Violin”
by Kelly Powell

076 March 5, 2019
“Inward Oracle”
by J.P. Dancing Bear

077 March 7, 2019
“I Broke My Bust Of Jesus”
by Susan Sundwall

078 March 9, 2019
“My Mother at 19”
by John Guzlowski

079 March 10, 2019
by Chera Hammons Miller

080 March 12, 2019
“Of Water and Echo”
by Gillian Cummings

081   082   083    March 14, 2019
“Little Political Sense”   “Crossing Kansas with Jim
Morrison”  “The Land of Sky and Blue Waters”
by Dr. Lindsey Martin-Bowen

084 March 15, 2019
“A Tune To Remember”
by Anna Evans

085 March 19, 2019
“At the End of Time (Wish You Were Here)
by Jeannine Hall Gailey

086 March 20, 2019
“Garden of Gethsemane”
by Marletta Hemphill

087 March 21, 2019
“Letters From a War”
by Chelsea Dingman

088 March 26, 2019
by Bob Heman

089 March 27, 2019
“Clay for the Potter”
by Belinda Bourgeois

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