It’s that time of year when I remember.
I don’t do it on purpose. It’s perhaps the imprint of that crazy wilderness pilgrimage to the hospital for three weeks and then home to slowly heal. Four years ago, my body was in decline, losing a battle with ulcerative colitis, and was eventually required to give up a colon or die. I suppose its ok that I do this remembering each year. Especially since the remembering is full of goodness and love and mercy. Yeah…you read that right…and I’m not just speaking in hyperbole here. I know and remember well the discomfort, the pain, the agony of body leading up to surgery as well as after. But alongside all of that, perhaps in equal portions to the yucky, was a goodness I actually find myself longing to return to.
I won’t go into all this goodness today. You can, if interested, read about some of it here and also here. But what characterizes that time in my life are two words – pilgrimage and unplugged. Even as symptoms worsened despite massive medicinal intake, I knew I was on a pilgrimage of some kind. I had never really been much of an observer of Lent, but that reality of walking into a desert was very real and somehow comforting at the time. I knew I was being led somewhere, though I had no inkling of what all would happen in my body. But I was aware of walking a path marked out for me and had an uncanny sense that I was right where I was supposed to be.
By necessity, I had to unplug from everything that made up my normal life. Teaching art to elementary kids eventually had to stop, eating became a struggle, getting things done around the house and for my family rapidly declined and then went away altogether as I entered the bleakest part of my wilderness sojourn. Walking the halls of Forsyth Hospital post-surgery became one of the truest images of a pilgrim’s walk – painful, humiliating, yet necessary and healing.
I’ve taken to drawing a couple of plugs around our house. Or rather…unplugged plugs. I suppose I’m drawn to what they represent – an unplugging from whatever I typically view as a life-giving source, to pull back and reevaluate what exactly it is I’m plugged into for “life” and consider where I might need to be rightly reoriented or plugged in. In some weird way, I know this attraction to unplugged plugs is because Lent is coming up (March 1) which is rather late compared to last year, and even to the year when my own wilderness walk took place in 2013.
It is time. It is time to walk in memory of past pilgrimages, while also marking the current one. It’s time to unplug somehow from what typically feeds me in order to consider more fully the Source of all energy and how I might plug into that.
I’m quite excited about my Lenten pilgrimage this year. Last year, I walked every day, drawing something each day from those walks and posting the reflection on A Pilgrim’s Draw. I’ll be doing something similar this year with a slightly different focus. I’ve already posted the basic trajectory for this drawing pilgrimage on that blog and am inviting folks there and here to join me! This year’s stay-at-home Lenten pilgrimage will be a blend of walking, drawing ordinary things, and reflection on a book I’ve just finished reading titled Liturgy of the Ordinary, by Tish Harrison Warren.
I’m realizing more and more that my daily practice of drawing and sketching in a sketchbook is a kind of liturgy. It’s a habit that has formed me and “drawn” me to see beyond the ordinary things, people or places I draw. As Tish writes:
“The often unseen and unsung ways we spend our time are what form us. Our mundane moments…shape us through habit and repetition, moment by passing moment, into people who spend their days and therefore their lives marked by the love of God.” pg. 32.
Wont’ you join me in this daily habit? If you need encouragement to develop and/or keep going in drawing your life in a sketchbook, consider walking through my new ebook and video course. Or just come along with me on a drawing pilgrimage through Lent, which you can read about and follow A Pilgrim’s Draw here and download a PDF of daily drawing prompts for Lent. You may want to unplug from drawing “life” via your iPhone and social media and instead plug into drawing your life in a sketchbook. You might also wish to purchase Warren’s book for reflection over the next 6 weeks or so.
It is likely that you have places you remember, either painful or beautiful (or both!). Let’s walk together the path marked out for us, drawing our ordinary lives, creating beauty from the everyday things around us, and remembering the goodness that’s at hand.
2 thoughts on “Remembering”
Oh boy you did go on quite a journey through the dessert. I read your links. I know from the stand point of a mother what you went through but personally have not felt that pain. My daughter has had UC for about 8 years. At least diagnosed that long. Of course there were the years before of what is wrong? Until it escalated. She has remicaid infusions every other month. She also has autoimmune hepatitis. She is in remission, praise God. She had a bad flare after her third baby was born but was brought back under control. She suffered greatly (and still is treated for this) from the side effects of the high doses of steroids she was on. Your story is beautiful and you are brave to share something so personal. I’m sure you are helping countless people.
Oh Jill. It breaks my heart to hear that your daughter lives with this horrible disease. I actually feel fortunate in having to have my colon removed as it allows me to go on with my life free of all the bathroom visits, the flares, the food issues, etc. I do have other things I have to take care of and watch out for. But I just can’t imagine dealing with this lifelong, as many do. My thoughts and prayers will be with your daughter as she raises her family and deals with all that life with UC brings. Thank you for sharing this with me. If my story can be of encouragement to anyone, I am glad. Have a beautiful day Jill! -Jennifer