The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
1 Kings 19:11-12
I am not a painter. I have never been especially interested in painting pictures. Not because I don’t like them, it is just that I’ve always felt that my greater creative strengths were in mixed media and fiber arts. So why I felt drawn to create this painting from an old upcycled canvas is a mystery to me. This month has been rather “blue” and somewhat dreary, and honestly quite discouraging with all of the mess here in our house while we are recovering from the flood at the end of October. Hooray! I just got a message that the new carpeting will be installed on Saturday . . . we can FINALLY get all of the bedroom furniture out of the living room and dining room and back where it belongs. Just in time to get the Christmas tree up before we miss Christmas altogether.
The other day when I was feeling a bit more “lost” than usual, I wandered out into the studio and saw this lonely old canvas propped up against the cabinet with some old paint splattered on it and a couple of gouges here and there. I kind of looked like I was feeling that particular day. Then I remembered that a few days earlier I had been messing around with painting some mismatched puzzle pieces and wondered what I could do with all that disconnected junk.
The first thing I did was line up those old puzzle pieces and spray them with glitter paint. Of course, everything is better with glitter don’t you think? They had already been painted white so a little bit of silver glitter was just perfect! Well, that reminded me of snowflakes – and that particular afternoon there were real snowflakes dancing just outside my window. While the glitter paint was drying, I decided to slap some white paint on that old beat up canvas. That was that for one day!
Later that evening while watching the crackling fire in our living room (temporary bedroom), I got to thinking about how it is often in the quiet that we have opportunity to reflect on life and think about who we are and how God is guiding us in life. Usually at those times I have words. Not that I always write them down where anyone can read them, but there are words. But this evening I just kept thinking about the snowflakes drifting down, silently and gently, and it reminded me of the verse in 1 Kings where Elijah has collapsed in exhaustion after defeating the prophets of Ba’al and then being pursued by Jezebel who wanted to kill him.
Poor Elijah! After God had revealed Himself in such a mighty way before the false prophets, Elijah was terrified because he believed that he was the only true prophet of God still alive – that all of the others had been killed by Jezebel – he felt alone and frightened, and he was completely worn out from running. And then God said:
“Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”
I don’t know what Elijah expected would happen, but as it turns out, God’s presence in that moment was a profound, quiet, gentle whisper:
“Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”
Sometimes I wonder if, as I am working here in the quiet, even the silence of my days, whether or not God knows what I am doing, or if He sees me or if He cares that I am “just” a stay-at-home mom with the blessing of being able to have a “job” that I can do from my little home office. It is quiet around here, but that fits my personality. I do best when I can focus on my work and create stuff, write stuff, and do my work in a peaceful environment. So when I thought about Elijah and how God “spoke” to him in a “gentle whisper,” I decided that I might be seeking to hear a shout or a roar, and I need to listen for that “gentle whisper.”
So the next morning, after the girls left for school, I decided that I wanted to paint that canvas blue and use the puzzle pieces for snowflakes. I painted the background several shades of blue with swirls, splatters, and blobs – and it was fun! But I didn’t like it. After it dried I went back out and looked at it and added a few more shades of blue, purple, green, and a few drops of white. I was starting to like it better, but it was definitely missing something. But since I am not a painter, I had no idea WHAT was missing. I still don’t!
A little later I was thinking about that “gentle whisper” and decided my painting needed more white so I pulled out some of the pearlescent kind of silvery white paint that I had in the drawer and grabbed an old debit card. I started playing around with making straight lines and “swooshing” them out to the side and I kind of liked the way that looked, so I did a few more. I think maybe it needed the white!
Then . . . for two days I arranged and rearranged a few of the painted and glittered puzzle pieces all over the place. Of course, painting the canvas just wasn’t quite enough for me, I knew I would need to add more “stuff” to it so that’s when I also dumped out a jar of vintage white buttons. Snowflakes? Of course, perfect! Finally, on the third day I decided that the puzzle pieces clearly represented the pieces of my life, just kind of floating around out here in outer space, most days having no clue where I’m headed. And those vintage buttons . . . well, I just thought about God’s “gentle whisper” on the wind, floating silently through my life, moment by moment, bringing peace, joy, and guidance even when I am discouraged or “blue.”
In the end, that trusty ol’ craft glue worked its magic and all of the puzzle pieces and vintage buttons were put in place, along with a few little black circles reminding me that life will never be perfect, but that’s OK as long as God’s “gentle whisper” surrounds me. And the finishing touch . . . more glitter! That’s how my life is most days – a lot of ups and downs, but always sparkling with glitter. So who knows, I might one day decide that I actually do like painting – as long as I can toss a bit of other random stuff on the canvas, I’ll be OK.