It was a weekend retreat, 6 years ago -- a silent retreat. The weekend still pulses through my veins as a turning point. Subtle, yet powerful; quiet, yet resonating still.
On the first night during orientation, we ladies were given free clearance to talk and mingle. After that we entered into a time of silent reflection. There was a syllabus, but the structure was fluid: we could paint, draw, hike, journal, and read to our heart's content. We were encouraged to take a blanket out to the lawn at night and watch the stars. Or walk a nearby labyrinth. Or maybe explore a woodsy, hidden path. The point was to become quiet way deep inside, so that we -- I -- could hear God in a new way. It's hard, after all, to hear His whispers amidst the clamor and commotion that is life. Becoming intentionally quiet is, at first, hard work. After some time, though, the silence is nice. For me, the silence was a prelude to hope. All whispery weekend long, I had this notion bubble up inside me, this idea of hope on the horizon. I felt like a child again, waiting for Christmas morning -- the anticipation was tickling my innards, just begging for some tangible expression.
And so I painted.
There, in the dining room, the hostess had placed all kinds of art supplies. At orientation, she had told us art is a wonderful vehicle for articulating our thoughts. "Even if you are not naturally pulled to art, try it!" she enthused. "The action of carrying an idea from your heart to the canvas is a gift. Don't deny yourself this gift."
And so I painted.
Sitting cross-legged in the window seat, overlooking an expanse of lawns, gardens and autumn-adorned trees, I painted the words: Hunker down and wait for hope. Then I took the brush and softened the words with pastel colors. The merging of words and paint, color and texture, had a soothing effect on me. I shared the smallish 8 x 10 watercolor with no one, not even my husband. This was personal and besides, how would I explain the phrase, "hunker down and wait for hope" ? What did it mean, really?
I couldn't possibly know back then, but now I understand. God was preparing me to weather a great and turbulent storm of grief. The little word picture would crystalize what I needed to do, moment by moment.
Hunker down. Wait for hope. For rescue, for relief....for recovery. And in its wake, healing.
During my move from the farm house into the apartment, I found the picture. It's up in the attic at the moment. I'm thinking maybe it's time to give it light and a place of honor on the wall. In the living room, I'm thinking. I guess I'm no longer embarrassed to showcase an amateur piece -- it is a vibrant reminder of God's provision before the storm. And it is a gentle nudging into a place of calm amidst the urgency of living.
Waiting for hope, I've discovered, is very active. It is a continual state of anticipation, a profound sense of trust. Hunkering down, well, that's a posture of being quiet. It's a state of mind where I tuck in and allow Somebody Else to make sense of my day.