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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.