I was chatting with a new friend at church Sunday. Our fellowship has started hosting chapel at a local mission once a month in an effort to give people who go through rehab a place to belong once they graduate. We’ve learned when someone hits rock bottom, ends up on the streets, and enters a program to get their life back on track they have no place to go once they’ve recovered. Old friends can drag them back into addiction or destructive patterns, and many churches don’t want “people like that” to sully their pews. It’s sad, but it’s true. I’ve certainly experienced it in the past. As a teen and young woman, I was undesirable and judged harshly in certain congregations. I got fed up and dropped out of church culture for a number of years.
But this day, as we are chatting I look around the room. If you were casually looking at this group, you might jump to the conclusion that this is a bunch of average middle class people getting together. See that group of men standing by the coffee? Recovered alcoholics discussing on how to start a twelve step program here. See that woman talking with a visitor? She was homeless and her life has been restored. See that young man talking to the middle aged woman? Both recovered drug users. The woman sitting in my seat? She was a steaming hot mess. When you ask me my story, I don’t even know where to start. But my life has been transformed. In fits and starts, I am very different from who I started out as.
Healing has come in layers, but it started decades ago when my heart cried out to God and He gave me a vision of what was being closed off (hell) and what was being opened up (eternity - bright, mysterious, and beautiful). I was actually in the back seat of a mainline denomination preacher’s car and knew better than to tell anyone I was having a vision. Most likely he would have pulled over to the side of the road and performed an exorcism. Strange how some Christians believe more in the power of evil to cloud your mind than of a good God to give beauty for ashes but, there you go. It was years before I found a group of people I could tell about the visions and foreknowledge of certain things, and now I’m much bolder.
I may not look like much at first glance, but you would be mistaken to underestimate me. I have “Property of the King” stamped on my forehead and Jesus is rewriting my story with His blood.
Recently, I joined a Facebook group called the Holy Disorder of the Dancing Monks. There will be some who will be dismayed by this fact, since it’s not what one might consider “orthodox.” Too bad, so sad. I joined it to remind myself the need of joy and beauty in my life.
This morning, someone in the group asked the question, “How will you add beauty to your day?” Since the weather is lovely, I knew the answer. After working out and visiting Mom, I was going to create a rock garden. I've been collecting rocks for some time now. Today was the day.
Once again, the theme ‘labor to enter into rest’ came to mind. Beauty gives my soul rest, but creating beauty is labor. Whether it’s dancing, painting, writing or gardening you have to put the work in for any sort of beauty to result. Oh my, did I labor. In hindsight, I shouldn't have gone to the gym this morning. It will be days before I will be able to move easily again.
But digging in the dirt feeds my soul, and the end result is good, albeit small. I have a lovely little corner garden. However, I want to do the entire bank because I’m sick of mowing the incline….and I've run out of rocks.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.