My dad just returned from a trip to Japan.  He brought me back a souvenir, and at first I was expecting some fun Japanese candy or treats.  So imagine my surprise when I opened up the bag and saw a beautiful necklace pendant that resembled some of his ceramic pieces.  It was packaged with a card that read "Nozomi Project."

A small but powerful object lesson.
Nozomi, translated 'hope' in Japanese, is a social enterprise bringing hope to women adversely affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Ishinomaki, Japan.  Nozomi women create one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry using broken pottery left in the wake of the tsunami.  As broken shards are being transformed into beautiful treasures, lives are also being filled with renewed beauty.  The Nozomi Project symbolizes "Beauty from Brokenness."

Today, looking at the beautiful pendant made from broken pottery, it symbolized a greater lesson of restoration from brokenness.

I still remember those days like they were yesterday.  I would sleep, wake up from the nightmare, realize the nightmare was my life, and then try to go back to sleep.  I robotically created 'To Do' lists filled with meaningless tasks, just to give myself some structure in my life.  I numbly re-arranged the items that would have filled a brand new house into my old childhood bedroom.  I was so angry and confused- little did I know that this entire season of my life was teaching me a lesson in humility that could only be experienced with raw and absolute brokenness. 

It was 2006, and I remember sitting in the uncomfortable wooden pew.  I felt oddly out of place, even though it was the familiar sanctuary of my youth, with its familiar smells and carpet where I had grown up.  Feeling like an outsider, I watched the man on stage give an object lesson at the front of the church.  Most knew him as a comedian who also was a master ceramicist- I just knew him as Dad.  He had his potter's wheel and lump of clay, and we all marveled at the way he could effortlessly transform the ball of gray matter into a beautiful vase.  It was like magic.

And then, he said something that I'll never forget- "If the clay starts to get shaky or uneven, it can crumble down and fall into itself.  But as the potter, you simply re-work it and re-shape it- you don't just throw the clay away."  I saw him look up and I felt like he was looking at me directly in the eyes.  Tears streamed down my face.  This was more than a simple object lesson, this was a divine message from a Father to a daughter.

It was at that moment that I recognized and experienced hope.  We were not meant to live as broken shards, shattered pieces of beauty that "once was."  We can be picked up from the rubble, dusted off and polished until we shine-  Beauty from ashes.

There are times in our lives that will break us, shattering our spirits and our dreams.  While the world may tell us that we should stay in the dirt, shrouded from sunlight and buried under the rubble, this is simply not our destiny.  Remember that true beauty often comes from brokenness.  Sometimes simple souvenirs and unconditional love from a father can remind us of a greater Truth:

There is always hope, there is always nozomi.