...that world far off as a little picture hung on the wall...Carrie Brown (from The Stargazer's Sister)
We could hear the banter of people laughing and talking as we pushed open the door of the Italian eatery--that rush of indistinguishable words, at times accentuated with high pitches, then descending into quiet murmuring. The place was candlelit. An aroma of rosemary and basil drifted from the kitchen. We sat at the bar, and I held my elbows close to my side so that I wouldn't touch the woman sitting next to me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw her pale flesh through tiny squares of fishnet hosiery, smelled the iconic scent of Chanel No.5 when she tossed her hair from her shoulder to take a sip of wine. My husband and I sat, heads together, speaking loudly over the roar, clutching tightly to our flutes of Prosecco, feeling people bumping our backs now and then, the line of individuals waiting to be seated curling outside the door. Through the restaurant's front window I could see people outdoors lighting up cigarettes, lifting their faces to breathe out smoke, standing arm-in-arm, stamping their feet to keep warm in the chilly black night. Finally we heard,"Garatti" above the din. I swung my feet around the bar stool, grabbed my husband's hand and followed him to our table for two.
The clatter of plates and the sound of people never diminished as we sat eating our food. My throat ached from yelling. I fell silent, and my gaze drifted to a little painting hung on the wall above our table. In the soft light I couldn't see the image clearly. I stood and moved my eyes only inches from the painting. I saw a rose-colored house with an orange tile roof sittng on a a verdant, Tuscan hillside. The image seemed to speak louder than the cacophony around us in its simplicity. I shouted, "Look Giovanni, this is our house in Italy. One day we'll be there." My husband smiled and said, "One day." Sharing that image together seemed to quell any need for speaking further. We finished up our meal with no words, savoring the food, not fighting the indistinct, undulating swell of speech around us.
This week I thought of that memory in the restaurant--remembered that simple oil painting. The memory led me to ask God this question, "What images would surface that represent what you have been for me in 2016?" Three pictures came to my mind. I saw myself standing on a rocky cliff, holding a red umbrella over my head. I thought of how God has been my shelter and protector as I've weathered the broken clouds that inevitably come in any given year. I've been okay, that red umbrella a symbol of His safety, the rock His solid granite under my feet. As I walked down my gallery of images, next I envisioned a wide open field. God has provided me margin in 2016--time for reflection, to sit in His presence, to write, to think, to enjoy solitude--real gifts in a world that swirls with distraction and noise. The third painting included the image of a gray stone castle. Castles are intriguing to me. I imagined running up a spiral staircase to the highest of the castle's towers and looking out over the landscape, the shimmering ocean a sapphire thread spooling across the horizon. This year God has been my high tower, my stone castle, my strength.
2016 will land somewhere in time and I will flip the calendar to 2017. I am grateful for all God has been to me in 2016, for these images of His faithfulness now hanging on the wall of my life. What images surface for you from 2016? What has God been for you? I pray that as you move forward into 2017, you experience all that God wants to be for you.
For God is sheer beauty, all-generous in love, loyal always and ever. ~Psalm 100:5 (The Message)