I didn't know, when I started writing my experience for you, what the review would do to me. I was still caught up in the exhilaration. But my time at the retreat has opened a Pandora's box of memories I've been silencing, some of them since I graduated away from Bolivia into a U.S. culture shock from which I haven't yet recovered 17 years later.
It felt like a second chance, a home, as if the past and present had combined in unique ways I could never have imagined. I could only be thankful, so thankful.
There was a joyful comfort in the serenity of the place, a prayer-infused sense of walking on holy ground.
We stopped to talk, these family-like strangers and I, now here along the path, now there overlooking the river, telling our stories and finding understanding of isolation, and shared wonder at the meaning of beauty. The lessons God had taught us became mutual affirmation and new realization of grace.
I watched musicians play together, one with a new song still on its way; another with a tune recently arranged; listening, and talking while fingering chords. Those moments can be glimpsed in the sketch above.
A tired baby transformed from resignation to laughter
through a simple melody under the hand of a master.
I watched her parents smile, too,
as their photographer knelt and took his fill of the view.
In all this, I found inspiration,
in shared dreams and God-given vision.
I couldn't contain the overflow.
It slipped away where time always goes.
And perhaps it really was a glimpse of heaven.
I didn't know how lonely I'd been,
disconnected from every culture I've lived in,
always just a little outside,
no matter the effort or methods I tried.
Yet at Laity Lodge ... I simply existed, for once.
You see, I was doing my best not to feel alone, knowing I'm not alone.
I told myself it was alright that I should be the one expelled after years of relational investment within a local church community, because I have so much support to fall back on, unlike other women in similarly destructive marriages who would have truly been alone had they challenged the church leadership on its perspective in regards to divorce.
I'm loved ... loved ... loved by friends around the world, my adopted family within mom and dad's mission, online pen-pals, neighbors, aunts, uncles, cousins, my parents and children, and even the friends who once looked for me when I walked through the church door and no longer have that regular reminder of my existence.
Oh,... and above all by God, who weaves together these individuals into an expression of his love and provision for me, a greater fabric than I can see.
I am loved and supported and prayed for more than anyone else I know, so I thought I could handle the wounds. Even now I believe accepting expulsion by the church leadership sent me straight into God's waiting arms. He knew ... he knows ... and this painful awakening to the loss is also within the comfort of his vivid, healing presence.
After all, I'm used to letting go. What is one more goodbye when God is always with me?
I knew before, but now I really know that healing hurts.
And maybe it's better to weep
and feel the pain
of letting loved ones go
again, and again, and again....
trusting God to hold each part
of the tears bottled up,
not behind a wall in my own heart
but poured into his cup.
And the family I find along the way
is mine eternally
whether I hold them every day
or wait till death to finally see,
I just want to be in their presence
and feel the warmth of their smiles.
So lovely to hear them singing
and to be near them for a while.
But here in this moment I deeply know
that time seems long beneath the strain
and I don't want to let my loved ones go
again, and again, and again.
So what do I do now that I'm exposed? I'm afraid I'll cling too tightly or let go too quickly. How can anyone know how to handle these things?
I might cover this pain, push it back, think only of how thankful I am ... because I am thankful ... joy and pain in the exact same moment. Both are present ... both real. Both are part of my life. I don't think I've ever cried this much while writing. I've been too numb.
But I do know God gave me this gift of tears.
I will heal and move forward into new suffering and new joy. The hurt is just another path to loving others, and it is more God's story the more impossible it is to live it well.
I don't know what will happen next.
The path that passed through Laity Lodge is still ongoing. I'm currently working on a project with one of my new friends, Lee Harbaugh, such an unexpected gift! I'll share the cover we're designing for his new CD when I receive the go-ahead. If you enjoy piano music you'll want to listen to this, for sure.
Soon I'll be sharing a series of paintings based on my experiences that weekend, and hopefully you will enjoy a glimpse of the stories, friends, and songs that prompted them, plus a few other beautiful gifts here and there.
For now, I'm planting this gaping wound in my virtual garden of stories-surrendered-to-God and watching to see what he does ... while wondering if I'll ever know.
I'm joining with community this week, here:
Fear, Flying, and Familiarity (Part 1)
Broken Vessels and Light (Part 2)
When Pigs Fly (Part 3)