Creative Communion by Brianna Heida (Originally published in Gritty Faith Vol. 11: Into the Depths)
I’m in over my head. With a gasp, a panic starts to rise in me. How did I get here again? Don’t I know better? Haven’t I learned this lesson? Multiple times now? The end of the school year, the beginning of summer—and this year, the sudden onslaught of activity as a world rushes back to “normal” as vaccinations open up post-pandemic possibilities. And just like that, my margin has vanished, and every day seems filled with games, practices, appointments, concerts, ceremonies, and plans. Very few of which I can actually skip.
The past 14 months or so have been challenging and grueling and healing and beautiful. My health has actually been at a really great place overall because there have been zero demands placed on me physically. Over the past year I would go weeks, sometimes months at a time without leaving my backyard. While this was devastating to my social life, my body relished in the rest. As I reflect on the time I was given during the pandemic, time with excessive margins and lower pressures and demands, I realize it was something of a low tide moment. There was turmoil to be sure: the chaos of the virus, widespread loss and suffering, the political divisiveness, the racial injustice, and all manners of inequity that was revealed—but on a very personal level there was much taken away. The activity and busyness of our lives came to a sudden halt. Most of us withdrew to our homes, isolated with our families, and hit the pause button on much of what had filled our lives. We all responded differently to that low tide, some reacting in fear and lashing out, some quietly sitting in it, some taking advantage of clear shores to clean up, some trying in vain to build something new in the open spaces. I had managed to find a sweet spot in there somewhere, close to my God, where my body could have what it needed, finally, and I could have my people, and I could find myself.
So what now, as the tide is rising once again? Part of me wants to desperately, stubbornly cling to the low tide, to somehow build a sand wall around myself to keep the higher waters from reaching me ever again. I lament. Surely, Lord, there must be a way to stay here forever? Another part of me is hopeless, thinking there’s no use fighting it. Maybe I’ll just drown in it instead. It’s inevitable. I think back to how the world had run down my body, my mind, my soul before, and I dread going back to that place. How can it be different now? How can I find my low tide happy place in the depths of high tide?
These are not answers I can find on my own. Trying to navigate this solo will only have me bouncing between stubborn and hopeless endlessly—trust me, I’ve been there before, and I know how this plays out. Now, then, with the tide rising around me, I think I’ll take a moment to float here. Just breathe, and float. Inhale, exhale. Repeat.
What if, instead of focusing on the water as the world is trying to drown me, I remember that my God can calm the raging seas—with one whispered word?
What if, instead of focusing on the world overwhelming me, I remember that my God can calm the storm around me?
If the difference between sink or swim, float or drown, is where my focus is—how do I make sure my focus stays on God? It’s a lot easier to keep my focus on God when the water is low, but when the water is always threatening to overtake me, that gets continually more difficult.
Enter the Practice. When we can create and keep a regular practice of creative communion with God, we’re building into our day an automatic connection point that puts our focus on the Lord at least once daily. Even if that only lasts a few minutes, it can be enough to remind us that God is bigger than the rising waters. This practice may only be one piece of the relationship that helps us navigate this process of finding our equilibrium in the changing tides—but it can be a foundational piece.
I have found (and forgotten, then found, round and round again) that God gives me a rhythm somewhere between swimming and floating. Swimming is done under my own strength. It requires my muscles to move and propel me, and in a short time my lungs begin to burn and my limbs grow weary. Floating requires little of me but doesn’t get me far. There’s a sacred rhythm, though, between God and me, that relies on holy strength and human commitment. It seems that if I show up—willing and with an open heart —God shows off, moving pieces into place or illuminating the path before me. I do my part, God does the rest. Ebb and flow, back and forth we go.
As I sit down to paint today with this on my heart, I watch the inks blend. I see one color chase down another, and I realize that my energy stores aren’t the only thing to keep an eye on here. While I can say no to a few events on the calendar and get some extra rest for myself, I also need to make sure I’m getting enough time with my people—if they aren’t saying no to some of those same events, too, I’ll find myself feeling isolated and left behind in a season when I may need them more than ever. I feel God whisper to my heart, reminding me to take just one week at a time, and I take a deep breath, feeling my grip loosen on the next two months. Just next week. I can do that.
Brianna Heida is a mama to four kiddos (two bio, two bonus) in the beautiful chaos of a blended family. She hosts the Creative Salvation podcast and runs Painted Prayers, a nonprofit that teaches art as a spiritual practice. Ever the creative, she's built her life, her home, and her family with intention, love, and hand-crafted goodness.