At the end of the fall, my family and I took a much-needed break and retreated to the beach for a couple of days. After a long summer with no respite from our normal routine, and then immediately rolling into the rigors of fall, we were all weary and looking for some rest. This first year of grief has found me shying away from large crowds of people and the beach at the end of October is the perfect place to go if you are in search of a quiet, deserted retreat. I think the whole three days we were there I saw only five people on the beach. It was glorious!
I love the quiet pace of life at the beach because it always affords me time and space to steal away by myself and meet with God. Our annual escape to the seaside puts me in a posture to listen and hear things about myself and my life that the noise of everyday life chokes out. This year was no different as I would wake up early each morning before my husband and kids, slip into a cozy sweatshirt and sneakers and sneak out the door before I could disturb anyone. I would sit on the sand and wait, listening, watching, wondering where God would show up and how I would meet him.
The first morning I decided to start taking a walk in search of the sunrise. It was a gray, cloudy day but I was hoping that the sun would break through. The farther I walked though, all I was met with was rolling, billowing clouds. Then something said, turn around and this is what I was saw.
I immediately turned around, a wide grin plastered on my face and my heart racing in sight of such beauty. I was like a moth drawn to light as I eagerly walked down the beach in pursuit of that break in the gray and that sunlight pouring out. As my feet began to walk, my mind began to meander as well, as my imagination took hold of me and I began to wonder, what’s happening beyond that spot in the clouds? If I could peek around the corner, what would I see and hear? You see, my imagination and creative pursuits was a new form of spiritual discipline in my life and I was beginning to fan the flame of my encounter with God.
At the end of 2016, I felt in my heart of hearts that God was telling me to start writing. I found this odd as writing for pleasure was something foreign to me. I wrote back in my school days because I had to and I kept a prayer journal off and on over the years but I never wrote as a means of communicating and publishing. I did, however, love to teach and saw my platform as a verbal, real-life exchange with my audience. There were times in my past when I’d need to write a letter or some other document and was told that I had a way with words but I never thought much of it. I had considered for many years taking thoughts in my head and starting a blog but lacked the motivation and confidence to pursue it.
Something was different inside me this time I heard God speak though and I decided what would it hurt to try and so I started to write. And the more I wrote, the more ideas kept coming to me. It was so strange to me. I saw writing as something creative people did and I never really felt very creative in my life, but I knew I didn’t want to stop. I had heard once before that to become a better writer one needed to become a better reader so I began to read anything and everything that drew my fancy. It started with books about learning more about God but eventually took a turn into classic fiction books as well as I soaked up the imagery and storylines to find connections in my own life. Each book I read and each piece I wrote felt like I was transforming more and more into the person I was meant to become, my true self and that I was understanding things about God I had never comprehended before.
I had a few trusted friends that began to walk on this journey with me to encourage me and offer me guidance. One friend shared a book with me that was challenging her and told me to get a copy for myself. The book was, “Waking Up Grey,” by Jennie Schut and has become a field book of sorts to me on this journey. The summed up premise of the book is that our creativity is a deeply spiritual matter. That if we find ourselves in a creative slump than we find ourselves also in a relationship stump with God and vice versa. We are all image bearers of God and he is the most creative being ever. To deny our creativity is to deny part our very being that connects us to God and breathes life into our lungs. I had already begun pursuing these thoughts on my own and upon reading Jennie’s words it was like scales falling from my eyes.
The reason I was finding myself and God more and more as I pursued reading and writing was that I was finally tapping into the creativity that I was hardwired for but had mostly been denying and shutting off most of my life. As I tapped into it I found myself becoming fully alive and I didn’t want it to stop. I started getting art books out of the library and found myself drawn to the Impressionist time period. I would spend quiet afternoons outside after I got my kids settled for their naps and quiet times, soaking in the sunshine and these beautiful works of art. I was reading classic fiction books that had always been on my “to read someday” list that lead to new authors and new books. I took in poetry and music of all varieties. I also discovered what I have deemed my “Garden of Eden” a private park near my home where I would go with my books and my journals and my ears attentively listening as I would walk with God in the cool of the day. The more I fanned my creativity the more I wanted to soak in more and more. It was like I was waking up the grey parts of my life, just as my new field book was entitled.
It was in the middle of all this that I found myself on the beach that morning with that sunrise. Before I would have just looked at it and thought how beautiful it was and maybe it would take my breath away but this time I let it take me one step further and I began to imagine. I was currently reading the time quintet by the fabulous Madeleine L’Engle and I just couldn’t help myself from thinking otherworldly images. As I “peeked” behind the clouds I imagined this throng of cheribum singing and swaying as one. Later I wrote in my journal, “With bated breath and flutter of heart you anticipate with excitement what you might find in this gateway to beyond. It’s the heavenly host, all come out to rejoice. They are dancing in the beautiful dance, flowing in rhythm and time to the beat of the Creator. Their arms flow, their hips twist, their feet delicately prance back and forth in a giant circle. Their movements create almost waves of light streaking across the atmosphere. Their eyes closed, they don’t need to see, they simply can feel. Joy has filled this place and your heart.” And then all I could do on that deserted beach in that moment was sing, loud and clear;
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise him all creatures here below.
Praise him above thee, heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”
The words just flowed from me, and so did the tears. I met God their that morning because I was finally unafraid to tap into my creative self and let my imagination run wild, straight into the arms of my Beloved.