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The fall after I graduated from college, I boarded a plane with my dear friend Jo and traveled across the ocean. In all, I spent a blessed month in Europe — in France, England, Scotland, Austria and Germany. Sixteen years later, I still cannot believe the opportunity given me.
My one-day husband studied in the British Isles at the time, another friend lived and worked in an English castle, a group from school spent the academic year in Salzburg, Austria. Jo and I traveled together for two weeks and then the other two, I ventured out on my own across the continent, meeting up with friends and my then-boyfriend and his study tour.
In every country, I walked the streets, hiked the trails, attended plays, visited with someone I knew. Except in Germany, my father’s homeland, where I traveled alone.
Amazingly, these few days were the first time I’d been alone for more than a few hours at a time. As a girl and young woman, I filled as much time as possible with people, so these alone days left me scared, lost and only a little excited. Sitting on the side of a trail above my father’s hometown of Garmisch, the Alps rising high above me, I knew I was held in that sacred place, that place of my own blood. I understood for the first time that to be in the quiet, to be alone, was not to be eaten by loneliness. I fell into the Vastness, and I was small, and I was connected. And it was good.
Several years ago on a silent retreat with girlfriends — with a love borne by motherhood for quiet spaces around my head — I walked paths crossed by wild bunnies, made patterns with barefeet in the sand. I wrote lots. About the lands of Beatrix Potter, about my favorite sweater, about the quiet and the ocean.
But when I wasn’t alone, and my friends and I crossed paths through the kitchen and didn’t speak, I filled in the space with the belief they were angry at me. I felt surprised by the feeling. After prayer and conversations after the quiet, I recognized new the power of sharing space with those I love and not speaking a word. I learned of the grace in simply being together, trusting the love that is there. No words or gestures exchanged. Holding space for one another.
This morning, I rise and make my French press and while it steeps, I lay on the couch, under the quilt handmade for me by a young woman I adore. A woman I hugged silently in a Starbucks last week, her tears falling onto my shoulder.
I absorb the quiet, feel love’s rush as my body stills under the covers.
And it is good.
Today, I’m meeting again with the loving community of Five Minute Friday at Lisa-Jo Baker’s Tales from a Gypsy Mama for some free writing. We follow the prompt, refrain from extreme editing, write for five minutes and encourage the beauty of each other’s offerings. Write with us? This post began with the prompt QUIET. In the spirit of full disclosure, today I wrote longer than five. Some days, a girl just can’t stop.
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We make such a complicated thing of simple quiet, don’t we Ashley? Since quiet is (especially in this age) a bit foreign to many of us, we tend to fear what will happen if we “allow” it and so we rush to fill the spaces. Sometimes it’s just “noise” we reach for to fill the gaps. You’ve learned so much about stillness over the years! Your last lines speak volumes … “I absorb the quiet, feel love’s rush as my body stills under the covers….and it is good.” I love the way you wove today’s post. It feels a place of peace.
Yes! It’s so ironic, isn’t it, that the simplest of things has become so complicated for us. In this age of so much — so much stuff, so much noise, so much to do — it does seem fear is under much of it…what will I be if I’m not doing? What will I hear if I’m really listening? Who am I really without all of the noise? Thank you for your thoughts, Mama. I’ve seen you over the years as someone who knows peace and good in the quiet. Thank you for that example.
Wow. That is one that I can really identify with. Also being a “people person”, “quiet times” used to be very scary to me. Now, as I am older, I love the time for reflection and bringing up old memories.
Yes, Auntie, I think it is especially difficult for those of us energized by people, and not depleted by them in the same way, to recognize our need for quiet. As you say, it is a much different kind of supply we receive by choosing silence and entering into time with God.
I often interpret silence as “disapproval”or “anger”, strange, I’m not sure where that comes from.. a need for reassurance? I love that you’re comfortable on your own.. that’s a difficult place for most to get to.. but it’s a gift that will last a lifetime. I’m encouraging my on daughter to discover that early on.. instead of waiting years like I did:) xx
Yes, Smidge, I think for me it has been largely a desire for reassurance. As one who loves words and encouragement (both that I give and receive), it can be hard to remember what IS true of me, regardless. What a gift you are passing on to your daughter. A lifetime gift, to be sure.
“I absorb the quiet, feel love’s rush as my body stills under the covers.”
I am sitting, alone, in my best friends home. She is working…I am sitting still, under her covers, in a quiet she has corralled for me, reading your words, which always speak into the deep of me,…
I understand all you share here, well.
Kim, what a beautiful image. You under those covers. Quiet. Safe. In a place created for you by a friend who is not physically with you, but whose gift you experience right now. Bless you in the loving stillness, friend.
oh so well written babe, as we mature and live we realize how important we are to ourselves and need to nurture ourselves.
Thanks for coming by, Karen! So interesting, isn’t it, that we begin life knowing our importance and then need to learn it again. Like a huge swing of the pendulum…it takes a while to find that space in the grace-filled middle. I know the ability to nurture myself and care for myself, without feeling selfish, has been a long time in coming. Still learning.
” I knew I was held in that sacred place, that place of my own blood”. This really engaged my emotions. You, as always, have the ability to put me there, wherever that might be. Silence can be that place of comfort, a place to gather energy, a place to allow ones thoughts to reassure and validate our purpose.
Of course I can never reflect on Germany (and Garmisch) without thinking of you, my papa. It’s always amazing when I think of it that the one place I was alone in Europe is the one place I could not really be “alone.” Because my roots are there, I could stand firm in a different way, with a knowing that this place of quiet belonged to me, and I belonged to that place. Someday, I pray we can visit together.
It’s funny how we can so quickly equate quiet with being along or lonely…I’m beginning to see more and more clearly how it is during this time of stillness that we can commune with God, can feel “love’s rush” and how this is one way (for me the most direct) to true connection, one way to feel most at one with it ALL. We are anything but alone in this space of quiet.
Thank you for confirming this beautiful truth, Ashley. How I appreciate you & your words…
Have a love-filled weekend, my friend. xo
I love what you say, Julia: “We are anything but alone in this space of quiet.” Yes! It’s as if in being open to the still, we are inviting in the mysterious ALL — so much more connection than in all the ways we try to fabricate and fill it. I love thinking about carrying this with me into the time of loud and full and chaotic, too. Thank you for your words and a love-filled weekend to you too, my dear!
Wow, when I read about your German blood and your kinship with Germany, I knew this girl knows what it means to live in our spiritual homeland for we are spirit if His spirit. Thanks for giving body and skin to our citizenship in heaven where we sit at the right hand of our Pappa, safely in our sweet Lord Jesus. Today was my first time at Lisa-Jo’s and I had a ball of a time!
Much love to you,dear one!
Yay, Mia! So glad you joined us at Lisa-Jo’s. I’ve been truly blessed by that community of encouragement. You are right — what applications when we think about our true citizenship, our true belonging in him. Thank you for your words, dear Mia!
I am so glad you went over your five minutes because I didn’t want you to stop either. I love my friends that I can just be with. No words, just grace and presence and understanding. No striving to fill up the empty bits. I would love to hear more, I feel like I am getting to know you bit by bit.
What a beautiful picture of friendship, Alia — “no words, just grace and presence and understanding. No striving to fill up the empty bits.” I am so grateful for the ways we’re growing to know one another bit by bit in these places, knowing, as we do in all friendships, that there’s more. Always more. It is so good to live in the place of mystery and all is well in our friendships, receiving the gift of quiet and not struggling to fill it all up. Thank you, friend.