It’s that time of year again, when many people reflect on what redemption means. For those who practice Lent, this may mean taking part in fasting or giving something up. For many who don’t religiously participate, the Lenten season may still be a time of reflection. These challenging times are especially focused on what it means to be set free, both literally and spiritually.
Last night I had a nightmare that my husband, oldest daughter and I were in a car that was flung off a cliff. As the car descended, I told both of them that I loved them, and I reflected that I had a good life, if this should be the end. But I prayed frantically for a miracle. Then we landed- onto a thick black mat that seemed made of melted rubber, like children’s indoor commercial play-area flooring. The mat was floating on foamy water, as part of a landfill. Our car was nearly on the center of the mat. We had survived! My dream self said, (because we are alive) “We must be here for a reason.” Then, my awake self thought the same thing: We are alive. We must be here for a reason.
I spent the day doing more than I usually do. I am grateful to be here. Let every moment we’re here be heavy with purpose. May we treasure our time and our energy, lest our purpose be frittered away by the manufactured realities that others push on us. We were made for so much more than this. This Lenten season, let us reflect on what mercy is, and know that we are loved by God.
You might remember when I shared this painting in September, and now nearly two months have passed by. Autumn is going fast. Didn’t it feel like such as short time ago when summer ended? But here we are, and the holiday season is soon upon us.
My Christmas show is coming along. I hope that you will enjoy it and share it far and wide. We need as much joy as we can get! Well, that’s all for tonight. I had a busy Monday, did you? I’m tired. Good night, dear friends.
I talked about my grape vine in a July blog post “Is your life fruitful?” and I mentioned that grapes don’t appear every season, and may take a long time to produce any at all. This season, no grapes, but… the vine has proven useful. I’d placed a young tomato plant on the other side of the grape vine trellis, and as luck would have it, the tomato plant needed to be secured to grow up the trellis and the grape vine was the perfect rope to bind the tomato plant to the trellis. It saved me the work of tying it down, so that’s a happy discovery! I do wish there were grapes this year of course, but at least the vine is helping me with my tomatoes!
This situation feels like an extended metaphor about a fruitful life, as sometimes we expect fruit (results) from one area of our lives, but our work/relationship/financial/energy investment may surprise us with a benefit in an area of our lives we didn’t expect. So, let’s keep going! We may not see what we want right now, but when we put our hearts into each day, we’ll see positive developments, even if it takes a lot longer than we thought it would, and even if some of the changes are not what we expected.
In my blog post “New Painting- Peaceful Landscape” that I shared with you in June, I said, “I’ll talk about what this painting means to me in a future blog post. For now, I just want to share it and let you let it speak to you.” But I forgot to follow up! I never did tell you what I was thinking when I painted this.
This was a landscape from my own imagination, in which I didn’t look at anything while painting, nor did I plan it out. I intentionally let the art tell the story and evolve, as I listened to music and let myself feel whatever came to my heart. I meant to paint a scene that is warm and inviting, and would appeal to me as a retreat, but that’s not quite what happened.
Instead, it seems that I painted the deeper feelings; the reason why I wanted a special place to retreat to. Because this place doesn’t look relaxing to me. It’s very remote and a bit lonely looking. Quiet, and pretty, yes, but it looks like someone’s missing from that empty rocking chair, as if suddenly taken from their favorite spot and the tea or coffee cup that never got cleared. There’s probably still a last sip in it.
The cardinal is observing the scene, as if he understands and has empathy. The flowers are still in bloom, the fields reach toward a clear blue sky, and the evergreens are as fresh as ever. But the walkway has no feet upon it. The steps are vacant. The rocking chair is not in motion. The last sip will never be drunk.
Reflecting on those we’ve lost, and realizing the passage of time, and feeling the weight of the dark world upon our shoulders, sometimes it feels as if we need a retreat from the burden of broken dreams and better days that must wait, or may never come at all. But in imagining a retreat, I instead inadvertently, subconsciously, painted the emotions that were driving me to want a retreat.
Maybe next time I’ll paint the actual retreat, but by the time I finished painting through the feelings I didn’t even know I had, I felt as if I’d already had my retreat. It was me observing the cardinal in the tree, from my vantage point on the other side of the canvas looking in. Seeing the scene through his eyes was enough to restore my spirit for another day.
Nature goes on uninterrupted. Seasons change. Flowers bloom. Trees grow. Then all of it repeats. There is something comforting in the sameness, and even more comforting is the pattern of change. This (spiritual) season will change. Meanwhile, we can embrace the quiet, the steady stillness, and the cabin that waits for someone to come back. When we are blessed to be here for another day, may we never leave the last sip to grow cold.
How are you settling into October? Do you feel ready for the change of seasons? Autumn can feel bittersweet, as the smells and sights of fall can bring back memories of times past, and perhaps loved ones we’ve lost. But also in the air is the hope of the upcoming holiday season and the feeling that anything is possible. “To everything there is a season…” Ecclesiastes 3.
Sleep well, dear friends (in my time zone it is Sunday evening). We have another new week ahead and much to do. We are blessed to be here for another day. What shall we do with this gift of time?