This is my latest sketch; it's of my Dala horse, which is a type of Swedish folk art. Sketching plays a role in this post, so I thought I'd post it.
I'm not sure if I have ever mentioned this, and I realize that there are going to be people who are skeptical about what I'm about to describe, but sometimes I receive what I call visions from God. They're like waking daydreams in which I see myself in another place doing and experiencing very specific things that involve all five senses, except that unlike a daydream, I can't direct what happens. These visions are usually very metaphoric, and Jesus usually appears in them with me and guides me in some symbolic action or tells me some message I need to hear. These have happened since my early twenties, from the first time I started doing listening or centering prayer.
For years and years--from the beginning of the visions until just last year--nearly every one of them took place in the same location. It was a forest with a lake at one edge and a low, rocky hill at the other side. A stream ran down the hill to the lake, and near the hill was a cabin where we went sometimes. These things don't come regularly. I've had periods of a year or more when no visions come at all. And I've had periods when they come once a week or so. I never know why they come or don't come. I'll be sitting trying to center or already meditating and suddenly there we are.
Then last year, God led me across the water of the lake to a new territory, and he told me I wasn't going to return to the forest where I'd been so long. The new place seemed barren and rocky, at least the part by the lake. We arrived in the dark, and Jesus built a campfire and he told me I was entering into new territory in my life, that he knew where we were going, and that I mustn't strain to see too far ahead but trust that he knew what was beyond the meager light cast by the campfire. A few days later, I went back and we climbed a short way up a cliff and stopped on a rocky ledge.
And that was where he left me. I haven't been back for a year until this week.
The other day I was listening and waiting and suddenly I was back in the new territory, still on that rocky, barren ledge. It was still dark, and Jesus and I were once again sitting by a campfire. And Jesus asked me if I wanted to climb some more. I asked where, and he said I didn't need to know that, to just watch him.
So we began to climb up this nearly vertical rock wall. I could never see any further than my next handhold and I simply had to trust that I would find a place to put my feet. It didn't take very long before my legs began to ache and tremble and my arms started to hurt. We paused so I could press myself against the wall and rest for a few minutes. Then we continued going upward. Finally, I saw a twisted tree extending over an edge of rock and I pulled myself up to a new plateau. The Lord told me we were going to rest there a while.
Then he asked me, "What have you learned?"
Me: "I can't see further than the next step."
Jesus: "What else?"
Me: "This journey is difficult."
Jesus: "What else?"
Me: "I can't do it when I'm carrying heavy burdens."
Jesus: "What else?"
Me: "That I can trust you."
Jesus: "And that's all you need to know."
So I took one of those steps today. As those of you who read this blog often know, about a month ago, I bought colored pencils and started sketching again regularly for the first time in more than 30 years. Two weeks ago, I became a member of the Chicago Botanic Garden for the first time ever. I did it because I wanted to go there for solitary walks as some of my "artist's dates." I also thought I might do some sketching there.
Yesterday, I opened my introductory copy of the members magazine, and I discover that they give art classes at the Botanic Garden. They are giving an Intro to Colored Pencil class there from June 6 to July 18, Saturday mornings, three hours at a time. Garden members received 20 percent off tuition. Michael and I originally planned to take vacation the last week of June, but six weeks ago when I went to book the cottage we want, we discovered we couldn't get it till July 25. Hmmm. Interesting coincidence, yes?
I got so excited about this that I nearly hyperventilated. None of this makes any sense to me except that it feels so right at a gut level. It's not the direction I intended to take with my creativity. It doesn't fit in my personal "Five-Year Plan" for completing certain goals as a writer. I guess maybe I'm not supposed to be a Stalin with my creativity. There is no way in the world I'm going to ignore an opportunity that gave me a rush as big as falling in love.
So I'm trusting my instincts. I signed up for the class today and handed over my credit card.
I can't believe I'm doing this.