Over the summer, my then-friend now-brother posted a few paintings to our favorite social media. I suggested a sibling date to paint together. At the time, he little realized I’d be coming back as an intern, and as I’d not been offered the position, I’d not publicized my intent to return. As it turned out, my brother and I had many opportunities to minister in the HOP together, and we often spoke of finding time to paint. On one of my last nights in Sunderland before flying back to the States, we finally made it happen.
Another intern asked to join us. She and I have a history with art together as she had led worship at a summer camp in which I taught on prophetic painting. I was happy for her to join us!
That night I painted my heart – the sense that I am heading into unknown territory where the only constant is the confidence that no matter where I am, I am held in the peace of the eye of the storm.
As I said my goodbyes, I bequeathed my paints, paper, and many brushes to my brother. I gave him instructions on the paintings I left, those donated to the HOP for sale and to fill the space with life and dynamic color. Three unnamed oil canvases remained drying in the balcony.
As I left the prayer room that night, paintings drying on the step, I walked out to the fellowship hall and was met by my beloved English family. I had already been crying for 5 days straight, anticipating this last goodbye. But my eyes welled up once again as they prayed over me.
Then my brother did something special. He held out a single £1 coin, saying it is a deposit and symbolic investment, a sign of giving back to me for all I’d given to the HOP, the community, the land. And it was a sign that I’d be back. The gift was profound for, unbeknownst to my brother, I’d returned from my initial trip in April carrying a single £1 coin, knowing I’d be back. I brought that coin with me in September, but just that evening, before heading to the HOP, I’d divvied up my remaining bills and coins among friends, and I’d specifically chosen to hold nothing back for myself. I told all this to my brother in the hearing of the others, complimenting his perceptiveness and giving him a last hug.
I’ve not painted since returning to the States. I did, however, receive a new watercolor tablet and gift card to an art supply store for Christmas. I teared up at these gifts, sensing the kindness of God to restore my heart in all I’d given up.
I am not returning to England in the near future. My year began turning into a semester from the day I got off the plane and customs stamped me for a firm 3 months. But while I was determined to overcome obstacles and fulfill my commitment, the leadership at the HOP sensed a different wind. Six weeks before my flights, they approached me with the choice: if I wanted, I might be absolved of my commitment and return home. They firmly believe in the power of strong marriages, and with an ear to my unspoken heart’s cries, knowing me to be an ocean away from the man I love, they only felt it right to allow me the choice.
Suffice it to say my world turned upside down. Nothing was further from my mind than the thought of not completing a year in England. And yet, after prayer and conversation with family and friends, the decision, though anything but easy, was clear. Let’s just say I won’t be returning to England without my Mister.
Today of all days I find myself reflective, for this has been an experience so far outside of anything I could have imagined that I would not have believed it, even if I’d been told. This wild ride that began April 1, 2013, enabled by a beginning on September 7, 2012, made possible by a whisper in 2011, reflecting a moment in 2007… is an adventure unlike any I could conceive or hope for. And to come through fire and water restored and healed, to find myself living more than I could ever dream, and through it all encountering the infinite Glory of the Person Jesus… There need be no words.
So here’s to this magnificently wild ride that was 2013. Changes ahead, from glory to glory, with hope and expectation, confident that the best is yet to come! Happy New Year, and Happy New Beginnings!