Tea Pots and Scrub Buckets

Once my dear friend had a little child in CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) with a scary infant heart surgery. 
That place is AMAZING. And heartbreaking.

Walking past numerous doorways, seeing through the glass windows in the doors, beautiful Arthur Rackham illustrations framed on the walls, messages from patients, and heartbreakingly inspiring photos of little children battling things one never should have to, I just yearned to be doing something useful with my life. 

‘I should work in a hospital supporting people who save babies!’ my heart cried.

Then, why am I a fashion designer?

I call it the ‘Tea Pot and Scrub Buckets’ theory…an epiphany I had a couple of years ago, over the second of two full pots of gorgeously caffeinated rich British tea with my cousin and friend (she’s another creative who writes, paints, draws, and directs film pieces from original screenplays she creates). *

I was having one of those Artistic crises where I question everything–questioning whether I should do something REALLY useful with my life, such as Baby Brain Surgery, or cleaning floors, or building houses for humanity , or..or.. (_younameit__) rather than ‘just making garments’.

tea cup

I was having tea and recounting to my cousin the story of a time when I had gone out shopping for a friend; 
my friend is the dearest person, and she needed a winter coat and was too tired, too expectant with her imminently arriving new baby, and too busy to go trudge around shops or the mall to find a coat.

So I went, purchased 7 coats, brought them home, sat her cosily in front of the fireplace, and proceeded to let her ‘shop’ amongst the tailored wool coats (and then I’d return the rest).

She found two she loved. Then her face fell because they didn’t quite fit her petite- but-blossoming figure, and she knew she’d not get around to altering them. 
‘No worries’ I said, ‘Easy’. And we altered them right then and there. Fun. No stress–a simple afternoon’s task for me.

But ‘what could I do to REALLY help her,’ I wondered, since she lived far away and I wanted to be there for her?

At this point in the story telling the epiphany struck me.


Doing something for someone– giving to them from your own skill set and your love for a particular area of life, can be VERY useful. Just because it feels easier than some tasks does not lessen its value. MAYBE it actually makes it just as valuable as anything I could have given my friend:  that I did something for her that I had competence and ease with, and something she couldn’t do at that moment.

Maybe I didn’t need to find a horribly hard task I am not very good at doing to be useful to her, a task that others are amazing at.

‘IN FACT’ (I said to my cousin as I gestured at the table) ‘maybe it’s silly to try to be some other thing than I am. For instance, what if I’m a TEA POT. A teapot is for making tea.

A teapot can definitely be filled with soapy water and be used as a scrub bucket… but then it becomes a scrub bucket, and can’t be used for tea. 
A scrub bucket can’t make a good pot of tea, it would absorb the soap and the tea would be soapy!

Maybe a person should focus on being the best teapot it possibly can, because that is what it DOES!’ (by this point I was mixing so many metaphors I could have been a cocktail shaker, instead of a teapot)

‘Maybe I should stop wanting to be a scrub-bucket, or a funeral urn, or an olive oil jar. Maybe I shouldn’t feel like all those other types are somehow ‘better’. Maybe I should be really excited to be a teapot. Maybe I shouldn’t keep getting distracted from making amazing tea by thinking I OUGHT to be a scrub bucket because it’s more useful!’

The conversation went on amidst much laughter and tea drinking…

But it did make me think: in the end, we are all vessels, filled with whatever spirit, inspiration, and power we allow to flow through us. What we love shapes the vessel to be the type of useful container it is. And we can do many things, really, but to sigh after other types of vessels, to use their skills and special qualities to beat ourselves up for being teapots instead of focusing on making the best tea we can…is just wasteful.

Instead, we should be appreciating the many many different types of vessels there are out there. Vessels being useful, beautiful, and downright unique.

And we should feel grateful when we have moments of clarity on what type of vessel we currently are.

Watering cans. Scrub buckets. Water glasses. Honey pots. Vases.

Aren’t they fabulous! ?

And, as it turns out, pouring my energies into the areas I love means, as those endeavours succeed, I can use my business to support other people in their amazing useful work…so in the end, perhaps I will get to help with Baby Brain Surgery after all! 

tea cup and flower

*Here I must insist that the arm waving ENERGY with which this epiphanous soliloquy was uttered had nothing to do with the caffeine consumed…at least I don’t think…much.

About Annina

Raised in Kempton, PA, and still considers it home. Annina is a designer, artist, entrepreneur, and teacher. She is also a sister, daughter, friend, aunt, niece, cousin, and granddaughter who is grateful for her large, loving family, and her upbringing in the New Church. She finds great strength in the doctrines for the New Church, especially those regarding the beautiful, unique, and complimentary qualities of men and women, those that teach about who the Lord is (an all-powerful, never angry, constantly loving, and ever-knowing God), and the merciful and hopeful gift that is the steps of repentance. Annina finds the idea of spiritual Correspondences fascinating, and tries to use what she has learned about them in her design work.

8 thoughts on “Tea Pots and Scrub Buckets

  1. This is so amazing! What a beautifully put point; so relavent to us all in today’s society where we can’t even get out of bed before being hit with judgement and images to compare ourselves to. It’s so good to remember that we are enough, exactly as is and have infinite love from the Lord at all times for just being our own unique teapots.

    1. It’s so easy to compare ourselves…against others. Really, we should be INSPIRED by others, and COMPARE ourselves to what we desire to become (ie, better, more useful, less selfish, more loving, children of the Lord).

      We should be able to look at how good someone is at their use, and allow that to inspire us to be better at our use, rather than wishing WE HAD that person’s use.

      As a teapot, I should feel very inspired that an olive oil jar is perfect for olive oil, and admire how its clear sides allow the light to shine through the olive oil’s rich colour, and the way its slim neck and spout can pour just the right amount of thick and flowing olive oil.
      It should inspire me to be happy that my roundy shape and long curved neck are the perfect thing for holding liquidy tea nice and warmly, and pouring it without spilling. 🙂

  2. This is the exact analogy I have been discovering. Or maybe not the very same, but the idea of the Grand Man. And yes! We do all have different uses, and it is okay that some people are one way and others another. It is the infinite variety in creation that makes heaven. But it does NOT do for a foot spirit to try and be hand spirit. They just can’t be that way.

    Be what the Lord wants you to be, and don’t try and be everything else at once!

    1. Yes, and a toe-nail spirit can’t be an eyelash spirit, because that would just look WEIRD (oh, and be less useful).

      In reading this again, I worry that it sounds like ‘just do easy help’. I don’t mean that, I just so often fight against a false-guilt induced, ‘screwtape letters’ misdirection tendency: ‘don’t do THAT help, it’s not as hard(and therefore not as worthy) as this OTHER help (that so and so is doing)’ and the result can be, no helping at all. Which is just a waste!

      Anyhow, back to my work, and my cup of fabulous, cinnamon black tea. mmmm.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Annina! I totally agree. We need to use the talents the Lord gave us to help others – we will be most useful to them and we’ll love what we’re doing! I think we should love/enjoy being useful and we do when we perform the things we are good at!

  4. Delightfully written with a pleasant warming jolt, just like a perfect pot of tea. I am going to make a special point of appreciating the array of vessels in my life. Thank you for the sweet insights.

  5. I was having tea and recounting to my cousin the story of a time when I had gone out shopping for a friend; she is the dearest person, and she needed a winter coat, and was too tired, too expectant with her imminently arriving new baby, and too busy to go trudge around shops or the mall to find a coat.

  6. I loved everything about this article – thanks Annina! I find that analogy very useful and practical. I feel like it’s been a process for me to accept that JUST being a full time mom is enough and that I am meeting my potential by putting energy and effort into learning how to parent well, how to support my kids emotionally, how to stimulate them intellectually, etc. The day to day essentially never (thankfully!) feels like I’m making life or death differences, but along the lines of your points, my own daily work is wonderful and what I want to do and feel able to do, and that makes it enough to develop and strive to grow in that.

    The other thing it made me think about is the variety in people that the Lord intended. There is a rather complicated article that I read on New Church perspective (http://www.newchurchperspective.com/essays/2014/4/11/what-harmony-is-or-if-you-can-sing-youre-way-better-at-math.html) about music and harmony and how heaven becomes more and more perfect the more and varied people there are in it. Perfection comes with variety not sameness. Its another concept along these lines that has really stuck with me.

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