"Buried in the questions
I can find the answers
I close my eyes and listen,
till I remember...
Everything is beautiful
everything is beautiful
everything is beautiful...here"
Sometimes it might feel as though we've been handed a bitter pill, a hard road, an empty cup. But, I am learning that it is in these very moments...when it looks like we have so little, or less than nothing...that we discover the very best, most creative, extraordinarily beautiful things growing inside of us.
The other day I was feeling as if my resources were stretched pretty thin. How to make what looked like too little time, not enough money, or exhausted energies go as far as they needed to go, seemed like an impossible equation to factor. It almost felt as if I were wringing drops of water from a stone. I needed something, but what.
That's when "Everything is Beautiful" by Ann Marie Boskovich filled up the achingly unsettled spaces of my heart. "Ah yes," it said, "you need to remember."
I sat quietly and let the silence carve out a little room. There, on its inner walls, God could play a slide of the countless instances when I had experienced, or witnessed, His abundant grace in the midst of heartache, fear, lack, or doubt. I snuggled into the warmth of His embrace and let Him show me what He wanted me to see...right then.
Ann Marie's music swelled as the opening credits rolled...God, God, God, and as an image came into view.
It was in the weeks just after my daughter's birth, and she and I were staying with friends at their game farm near the Botswana border with South Africa. It was a large compound, and you drove through the surrounding bushveld to reach the farmhouse and other buildings at the property's gated core.
Once there you were in colonial Africa. A place where Isaak Dinesen would have felt most at home. Inside a gated compound, was a lovely farmhouse with terraces, orchards, gardens, and a watering hole where non-predatory animals and birds could often be seen drinking during the day.
But outside of the gates, one traveled by Land Rover, and guns were de rigeur. The home was well-staffed and I had become close to the young housekeeper whose help in navigating the newness of being a mom was priceless. I knew that she lived outside of the inner compound, but she arrived so early in the morning, and slipped out so silently at the end of her day, that I never thought about where she went.
One afternoon when our hostess and I were out bouncing around in the Land Rover on photographic safari, with an armed driver for protection, we passed a small clearing and my host noted that this was where their young housekeeper lived. I was stunned. We were in the middle of the bush. There was nothing for miles in any direction. I asked how she got back and forth, and my hostess said that she walked. She then asked our driver to take us into the small courtyard.
We pulled in, and there was a one story, one-room cinderblock building with a corrugated metal roof and dirt floor. This was where she, her husband and their five children lived. The house was surrounded by a dirt yard, and that was encircled by a cinder block wall that seemed to be about 6 feet high. From outside the courtyard, the wall was gray cinder block, but once inside I gasped with delight.
Almost every inch of the cinderbock wall was covered with the most exquisite motifs and primitive designs I'd ever seen, and could never have imagined. Spirals, chevrons, animal images in heavenly shades of umber, sienna, gray, charcoal, khaki, rust, pumpkin, a fiery red. I was rendered speechless.
"Who did this?" I asked, as I slowly turned to take it all in. My hostess told me that our young housekeeper was the artist. "What is her medium?" I asked. The colors were so alive with a delicacy and richness I hadn't seen before.
"Dung," she said.
Then she went on to explain that this young woman...wife, mother, housekeeper who seemed to manage a constantly changing staff with seamless poise, precision, and efficiency...would collect fresh dung on her walks back and forth through the bushveld. Because the animals ate different seeds, berries, meat, roots, bark, plant life, beetles, the dung provided a very diverse spectrum of shade and consistency. When she arrived home she would spread the dung on the wall with her hands, using the different colors, and textures, to determine that day's palette, and inspire her designs.
I was deeply moved.
I later learned, from a conversation she and I had while bathing my tiny daughter, that she just loved making things beautiful and that one day it occurred to her that she could make her wall beautiful using the different colors of dung she saw on her way home. She told me that when that thought came to her, she felt is if she had been given a great gift and her spirit soared.
As she spoke, I thought about all the times I had complained to my parents that "real painters" needed fresh canvases, tubes of paint, the right brushes, when I was in a high school funk about my art projects.
So back to my recent reach for spiritual direction and inspiration...
It became clear to me, immediately, just why this was the "remembered moment" that God played out on my heart the other day. This memory of a young woman who painted with dung and was grateful for every color she found and gathered into the skirt of her dress as she walked through the bushveld she called home, was a reminder that I needed to embrace what seemed to stink in my life and let it be the medium for beauty, and creativity of spirit.
And it really was just what I needed.
Sometimes you just have to stop long enough to hear the reminder, "What hast thou in thy house...in your consciousness." And you may just find that what looks like dung in your life, adds color, texture, richness...
...a richness, a wealth of ideas, concepts, vision, and beauty...always beauty...
to what only moments before looked like a dusty, empty cinderblock courtyard.
Just a thought...
Kate Robertson, CS