Last month, Sam and I went out to the Nordic trails at Eagle Point Provincial Park near Drayton Valley.
Once we arrived, we went our separate ways to spend the morning with God. I picked the trail that would take me toward the river.
When I go out to spend a day with God, I take my journal, a Bible, my camera and my compact plein air painting and sketching supplies. I look for “God sightings” as I hike. When I see an animal in its natural setting – it feels like a gift straight from God. Blooming flowers, even tiny ones, also bring me delight. As God brings my attention to these and other wonders of nature sometimes it triggers other things: metaphors, sometimes scripture, or just thoughts. It is a day to sit or walk and listen to what God might have for me.
Armored with bug spray and sunscreen I struck off down the wide path.
Not even five minutes later, I saw my first animal in the distance, a deer. Slowly, I lifted my camera to take a photo or two before it walked away. It was looking directly at me and moved its head to see me better. I had its attention as much as it had mine. Then the deer casually walked out of sight.
1As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
the face of God? Psalm 42 (NRSV)
This scripture came to my mind as I paused, looking at where the deer had been. Psalm 42 is one of the scriptures for the upcoming “Art, Vocabulary of the Soul” retreat in June. “Restore my soul” is the theme of the retreat and that was what I was looking for in this day with God. It all seemed to work together in my mind and heart, as it often does when I’m listening for God, confirming to me his work in that listening.
Soon, I found a place to sit where I could see the river in the distance through the trees. I pulled out my journal, Bible, and paints and waited on the Lord.
I read Psalms 65 and 104. They both speak of creation and praising God. After reading, I just sat and listened to the sounds of creation around me. (It has taken me awhile to learn to “just be.”) As I sat there, I was filled with the awe and wonder of God. God was filling me up with himself. I was content and relaxed.
I found myself reflecting on how busy this spring has been for me with teaching and other things. Yet, I am not feeling exhausted and stressed in the busyness. By this time last year, I was feeling constantly behind unable to catch up.
What has been the difference?
I have taken more time to paint, which helps me connect to my feelings. I have taken more time with God, whether in my studio or in nature. I have also been able to be more present as I did things. I have “paced” myself by taking time to rest if I am working late.
I pulled out my paints and continued my time by painting, sketching and listening. Here are my sketches:
As Sam and I walked back, we shared about what each of us heard from God. Sam talked about what he called our inner experience and outer experience. He explained that what people long for, what we truly want in life has to do with our inner experience: contentment, happiness, peace, joy. Yet often we focus on improving our outer experience in order to achieve these.
Restoring our souls, is giving space for our souls to be in God’s presence, much like our day here had been. And out of that can come the contentment, joy and peace we long for.
For me, it was another “God sighting” that we had come to similar themes, each framed in our unique ways, and I was encouraged that God was preparing us both for the coming retreat.
How beautiful it is when God is at work and we get to be a part of it.
On July 17 in the evening I noticed that we had water on our floor in the basement by the furnace. We have had trouble with our washer before, but this was more. So that evening we started to investigate and pull out the washer and dryer and lift up the subfloor to see where the water was coming from.
Two nights before we had had a severe thunderstorm. It lasted three hours and poured sheets and buckets of water during the whole time. And, prior to that night, it had rained pretty consistently for over a month. It was so bad many farmers’ crops were flooded south of Edmonton.
After pulling up about half of the flooring in the basement and removing the sodden drywall, we discovered 3 new cracks where the water had come in.
It has been a lot of work, but we have made progress in repairing and cleaning it up. We are finally starting the painting stage, and we hope to get at least a couple of rooms finished before our grandchildren and their parents come next week.
I was not planning on mudding and taping drywall this month. But this task was in front of me. Adding one more unexpected challenge to the craziness of living in COVID 19 times and figuring how to do classes online, my husband, Sam having major surgery this summer and our dog being diagnosed with a malignant tumor that needs removal.
Did you know there is an art to mudding? Getting it as smooth as possible and extending it outward to make the bump where the tape is almost invisible. This is not unlike painting (with thick acrylic paint) and palette knives, only the mudding spatulas are much larger at 2 in, 6 in and 12 in.
How well do you deal with interruptions? Do you take them in stride? Do they cause you stress and shut you down? Do you set about making a plan to conquer it?
I find it interesting how each of us can react differently to a situation that is thrown at us out of the blue.
It made me think about Abraham (he is still Abram then) in Genesis. He had a number of interruptions or unexpected turnings thrown at him. One of these was in Genesis 14. Several kings had a war and looted the place where Lot, Abram’s nephew, lived taking Lot and his family as captives. When Abram hears this, he acted decisively, gathered his fighting men (about three hundred) and went after them, rescuing all the captives and bringing back the stolen goods.
This is not, of course, the first time I’ve experienced unexpected, life interrupting events like this, and, In the past, I wouldn’t have described myself as acting decisively. I certainly did act, I am good at getting things done, but first I would panic, then get anxious, and then get frustrated and annoyed that I had such inefficient feelings. Finally, I would push down my bothersome emotions and dive in to try to get as much done as possible. It created a stressful environment for those around me and usually exhausted and injured me.
I am happy to say I have been learning that I can take care of myself, both emotionally and physically – paying attention to what I can and cannot do, even as I work forward at an even keel; more practical, less panic, asking for assistance, and not trying to do everything myself. Acknowledging my emotions and my limitations frees me to be present to the situation and see things more calmly. It frees me to act more decisively, and, even, more efficiently.