Whew! It has been a full fall with opportunities to teach, play on the worship team, assist in an Enneagram retreat and show my art. The solo art show, Birds and Flowers, at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital went up last Thursday. The watercolor painting of the Egret Landing is one of the 19 paintings on display at the show. I was also invited to be part of the the Art of the Unknown show last weekend, with a week’s notice. It has been good, but I am incredibly drained!
I went into the fall knowing that my weekends were mostly full. I had this idea that I could take a day of rest and paint during the week. Painting can help me process things, but that didn’t happen most weeks. The busier I got, the more I kept pushing that time of rest to the side. By denying myself those moments of peace, I lost touch with my inner self, I became disconnected from my feelings and everything became chores to accomplish, even painting. Then, some things started to fall to the wayside, I became less organized, I started to lose things, while the pile of tasks grew until it was like slogging through a mire to get to it all.
Does this ever happen to you? What do you distract yourself with?
The story doesn’t stop there. I lasted a lot longer because I slowed down the pace at which I worked, I took breaks and I kept up with some exercises, but really, it wasn’t enough. At noon on Saturday as I was sitting and painting at the Art from the Unknown show, I started getting the aura of a migraine. I had pushed myself too hard and my body was enforcing the rest I was not taking on my own. There is a reason God calls us to take a Sabbath rest. He knows we cannot keep going, but we tend to try anyway.
“‘There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the LORD.’” Leviticus 23:3
When I take that sabbath rest, I am saying, “Lord, I trust you with my work. It is not all about me and what I can accomplish. I trust that what gets done is enough for today.” When I don’t take it, I am essentially saying that it is up to me, and I am not trusting God with my life.
It isn’t just the Sunday or Sabbath day, it is a mindset or an attitude. Am I able to let things go at the end of each day? Can I trust God or am I relying on me?
It is just over a week until our next art and faith retreat: Art Vocabulary for the Soul coming up on Nov 9-12. Where we will be reflecting and responding through art, to scriptures like the Leviticus verse above. Our theme is ‘God Our Provider.’ God is constantly proving that to live in his word we still have much to learn.
We have an extra day on this retreat, due to the long weekend. With that extra day, I look forward to resting, as well as creating with the others who are coming.
We will be the very first group to use the brand-new Accommodation building at Covenant Bay Bible Camp. There are three more spots – Do you need a moment to rest and time to connect with God through scripture and art, too? We will have writers, painters, photographers and those who will be new to expressing themselves in art. We would love to have you join us, too.
This last week I was talking to my spiritual director about the conflict within me about rest. I feel guilty and useless when I rest even when I know I need to be doing it to let my injured muscles heal so they can again be strengthened. Knowing it and living it are two different things though. As I talked with her, she helped me to recognize the guilt and point out that the ambivalence doesn’t allow for rest and exacerbates the problem.
Our conversation led me back to our recent Art Vocabulary for the Soul retreat at the beginning of November. One of the scriptures we reflected on was Isaiah 30:15-18, which begins
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
But you refused…”
the passage goes on to talk about the Israelites refusal and running away and in the consequences of their flight finding themselves all alone:
“until you are left
like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,
like a signal on a hill.”
God was calling the Israelites back to him- return to me, repent. But they wanted to go their own way. In verse 18, we see God waiting for the Israelites to repent and return to him:
”Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.”
One of the participants at the retreat related to “the flagstaff on a mountain” and painted an oil painting of a desolately lonely, battered flagstaff on a very gray wintry mountain on a cold, gray day. It spoke volumes as it reflected our state when we run away to do things on our own.
At the retreat, my shoulder was bothering me so resting was on my mind. I painted the scene in front of us as we looked out the large windows at the lodge. The view was overlooking Pigeon Lake. The barren trees were already preparing for winter and a season of rest as the last of the leaves had fallen. Last week, my shoulder was feeling better, so I finally finished the painting I started at the retreat. As I look at this painting of resting, I am reminded that everything has a season. And this is my season for rest.
Well I have been here before. And I will be here again. I am like the Israelites. Are you?
Knowing and accepting my limits is part of the rest and taking care of myself that I continue to come face to face with. I am learning to ask for help as I need it - and not stubbornly going my own way. I am listening to my body when it needs to rest.
I have another month to allow my body to heal and strengthen my shoulder before classes start up again. I look forward to Christmas with the family members here and a quick New Year’s visit in Spokane with my parents and sister.
In this Season of Christmas, may you find space to rest.
Last fall, I wrote a few times about rest and the scripture that kept coming up when I went to write. (you can read the articles here…What Are You Waiting For? and Season of Rest) I was thinking this morning about this and reflecting on COVID-19 and the call for us to #stayathome. I also considered my attitude in staying home and reflected on migraines.
When I get a migraine, I receive it as my body’s way of telling me I’ve been doing too much and not listening to it. My body is taking over to enforce rest, so I go to bed. It is a fitful, painful rest, and it is often a couple of days before I can even look at a computer or phone screen. For years I lived in fear of migraines and the pain they would invoke, because my first migraine was so severe that I ended up in the hospital. It has taken me a long time relax, to rest more and listen when my body starts giving me signs, but now I get less migraines that stop me in my tracks.
Our world has been stopped in its tracks. Did our world keep going at its frantic pace too long and now we are being enforced to rest? Is it painful? Are you discombobulated? As a society, we do not rest well. How are you doing? Are you well?
Edmonton, where I live with my husband, Sam, and our two girls, has been shut down since March 14 and social distancing is the new rule, with as many people working from home as possible. I have been out twice with my girls. We went out on Friday to pick up supplies for my son and daughter-in-law who are in quarantine after their return from South America. The streets were nearly deserted. We were armed with our gloves and hand sanitizer and stayed our distance from others. I saw the workers in stores all doing their part in wiping down shopping carts and basket handles for the customers, and limiting the number of people going into an establishment. How very surreal.
I am used to spending the day by myself. Now everyone is home and I am finding a new rhythm for my day to include some time with the others. Like Sunday: worked out with one daughter, played my guitar and sang worship songs with both daughters in the morning, took time in my studio to paint in the afternoon working on the painting Upper Troll Falls, Kananaskis AB and ended the day playing a game of Pandemic with Sam and one of our daughters. (It seemed appropriate – we lost twice to the game). A nice restful Sunday. Now the new week is progressing and routines are falling into place again. Last week I listened and read more news and felt more anxious. This week, I have limited it so that I do not use up all my energy on what I have no control over.
Our daughter Reena spends a good part of the day connecting with her friends via snap chat, texting and phone calls, but then that is a normal response to her day. I have never spent much time on the phone with people. I am short with answers on texting and email. It is something I have to consciously do or think about doing. It doesn’t come naturally.
In this time of self isolation, how are you staying connected? How are you resting and taking care of yourself? Are you able to still work from home? How are you filling your days?
For this commissioned painting, Lilac Garden, I recently finished, I imagined a place of peace and rest. I would like to sit and enjoy a garden like that. I am so glad they liked the painting!
I used eggshells and sand for the texture of the wall and sawdust for texture in the ground. The stone path was also of eggshells. It is a fun way to create texture. The bench was made from acrylic paint I mixed and poured out on plastic so it would be like a “skin” of paint. I cut out the bench and attached it over the painting for another 3D effect.
As I write this, I am sitting on our deck in the cooler morning hours, listening to the variety of birdsong around me. and enjoying the beauty of the flowers in planters. This year for one of the pots, I chose a flame colored dahlia which I started to paint in watercolor to capture its translucent, brilliant beauty. I am including a short video here of the first part of the painting.
Since Easter, I have been noticing our resident hawk. I noticed when it looked like he got a mate. Since June started, I have been too preoccupied to notice, but this week, I discovered that the hawks have now become a family of five. They were all sitting in a tree together sitting perfectly still as the sun came up. Alittle while later, two of the younger ones were calling out and flying in circles like two children at play. I had wondered why I was hearing the call of this bird more frequently throughout the neighborhood. The “youngsters” actively and incessantly voice their flights, more so than the parents.
I love that even in the city, we can see and hear the beauty of the natural world if I stop long enough to notice, to sit and just “be present.”
The idea of sitting still is foreign to our culture. It has taken work, but I find myself sitting and not feeling a need to always do something. I must admit that I easily fall back into doing mode and wander around lost when I have nothing pressing on me to get done. I can feel the difference when I am racing around, exhaustedly trying to get a lot done; when I push myself past where I should have stopped or rested. But I find if I maintain being present as I work, pausing to smell the flowers and listen to the birds, I am more awake, alert and relaxed to deal with whatever comes my way. It is more peaceful and I feel content.
In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. Is 30: 15
We enjoyed a week with our children and grandchildren around. I had lots of opportunity to practice just being present with everyone and enjoying the time we had together. Like the young hawks, children have a lot more energy and keep the rest of us moving. So thankful for the visit with all of them!