December 5, 2017

Advent 2017

"Sanctuary" 

 
Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly. (Anonymous) 

I often sit in a room with mismatched plastic chairs, coffee spills on the floor, and slogans mounted on the wall. I feel either too hot or too cold because the thermostat appears to have a mind of its own. One of the overhead lights is either out or comes on with a flourish. There are no paintings on the walls, no lovely sculptures or other artwork. In summer the sunlight floods through a wide window behind the podium so that even though there are blinds, it's often difficult to see who is standing there on the west side of the room. The paneling on the walls is darkened with age and the visible wall of brick where an addition was made could use elbow grease. As bleak as this d├ęcor may sound to you, to me it is my sanctuary of serenity. Regardless of how I am feeling when I arrive my soul lightens in that one hour I spend there. 

Gathered around me are women who play an integral role in my life. Many of them were there when I went to that room for the first time. We can read one another like a book - it's completely uncanny. We come from all walks of life - doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, artists, waitresses, ministers, military, homeless - the list goes on and on. Regardless of our stations in life we are all equals. No one judges each other, gossip is forbidden, and the darkest of secrets are revealed. We hug a lot, we say "I love you" a lot, we laugh until our sides hurt. We celebrate every single day we are given! We give credit to the God of our understanding; even the atheists and agnostics among us have a Higher Power of some sort. 

We have different religious backgrounds and we come from the wide range of the political spectrum. We don't discuss any of that. We seek what unites us rather than looking for the differences. We hold ourselves accountable to one another. We blurt out what's nagging us, we cry and are unashamed of our tears, and we know that at any time of the day or night one of us needs a friend there is always someone who answers her phone. We see the words "You are not alone any more" written above the window. 

I first entered that room almost nine and a half years ago. I went unwillingly. Little did I know then how much that room, those women, or the spiritual grace I experience each time I sit down there would mean to me. Little did I know that a sanctuary would have mismatched plastic chairs and coffee spills on the floor! Little did I know that the most difficult change I have ever experienced would lead me to a new way of life, moving me down a deeply personal spiritual path of which I never dreamed. Completely accepting, totally forgiving, forever encircled in love from on high! 

Every man, woman, and child goes through a myriad of changes throughout life. It is how we react to those changes that matters. As the saying goes, "simply adjust your sails." In this season of Advent may we all embrace the life God has provided for us. May the peace of the Christ child fill your hearts. May we reach out to those who are on the edges of life and welcome them into community. And may each of you find the quiet respite within you this holy season. 

 -- Janis Lewis


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