We had a great Awakening the Creative Spirit weekend again. This time my wonderful partner Betsey Beckman led us in storytelling, music, and song and the twelve holy women who participate were a gift to be with in their journeys of discovery. After we closed our time together I looked outside and wished I had brought my camera. Above the city's rooftops, I could see beautiful Mount Rainier flanked by the snow-capped Cascades and the waxing moon, that is almost full, beginning to rise in the mid-afternoon sky.
Unfortunately I have not been feeling that well. First, right before we were leaving for our Thanksgiving trip I fell off of a chair and onto my tailbone. It has been very sore and painful when I stand up from sitting. Then I also have developed this strange skin reaction which has been especially bad since my Remicade infusion last Thursday so I am concerned about having a reaction to medicine that has been so helpful in maintaining my health. Between taking Benadryl and pain reliever I have been feeling a little out of it the last few days and today slept in and then took a four-hour nap in the afternoon. Teaching for two full days always exhausts me, but I feel much more tired than usual. I am releasing into rest and hoping that sleep will help balance out whatever is happening in my body.
I have been eagerly awaiting some sabbatical time I have created for myself which officially begins in a week after I receive the final papers for my Seattle University class and get them graded. For the winter and spring I have been very intentional about keeping my commitments to a minimum: the monthly Awakening program and our Monthly Gatherings, a handful of directees, a one-day workshop on using the arts in dreamwork at the Priory, and some of the groups that feed me like my dream group, women's group, peer supervision group, and the Oblates which all meet monthly. I have been very intentional about saying "no" to several other requests to speak or lead a workshop, all of which are good things, but I know deep down they would scatter my attention and draw my energy away from what feels like a sacred invitation.
So what is the focus of my sabbatical? I am giving myself a gift of time: time to write and time to make art. I have been busy this fall finishing up the lectio divina book for the publisher along with lots of teaching, and now I have the chance to move into some other projects that have been calling to my heart. I will spend more time taking photos, playing with collage, and other new techniques I have been learning. I am feeling very drawn to combining words and images in playful and creative ways. I had even hoped today to get a foretaste and sit with the scripture readings for today, the first Sunday of Advent, and create a visual response to Jesus' words in Luke's gospel (21:25): "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars." But instead I held the words within me, slept most of the day, and then plan to go to church in a bit (we like the Sunday evening service), and later sink into a hot bath. I will just be present to my longing and know that this is what the season of Advent is about really — recognizing those longings and deepest desires that are hidden in the recesses of our hearts. The ones we are sometimes afraid to speak aloud because words fail us, because they sound so awkward in the light of day. Giving them space to grow and unfold in ways we might not expect. Waiting for the right moment to speak or sing or draw, waiting on the fullness of time to bring us gifts of vision and courage.
Some of what is waiting for me. . .
Part of my collection of art-making books to inspire me.
The wonderful chest of drawers in our living room that holds treasures troves of art supplies.
I have lots of ideas for specific projects, but I am trying to stay open to what is emerging in me right now, to what needs to be expressed about God and life. I am listening for the materials to guide me. I am in a place of eager anticipation, holy waiting for beauty to begin its new season of unfolding within me.
What are you waiting for in this holy season?
-Christine Valters Paintner