The image sears, fire-burned in place.
A clear, starlit autumn night, brilliant oblong moon rising above the tree tops. Twenty women gathered around a blazing fire, voices quiet now, holding in their hearts the rise and fall of an emotional day.
Warm wind winnows parched leaves from the trees and cools flamed-warmed skin. Strands of hair dart across determined faces. Each woman clutches a length of kindling. Some bear one or two words etched in their grain. Others hold stories of pain, the inadequacy of words crossing the lines of life.
One by one, the women approach the fire. Some silently sacrifice their piece of kindling to the flames before returning to their spot in the circle. Others speak aloud, naming that which is being left behind…a burden no longer willing to be carried. Some release whole families into the fire, recognizing that the weight of worry has become too heavy to bear. Others toss Regret, Grudge, Self-doubt and Fear. One woman strides forth with purpose, flinging Invisibility into the heart of the flames.
We were letting go of our fears…letting go of a myriad of concerns that worry cannot change, letting go of bitterness and pain, and of internal struggles that have kept us paralyzed in place, unable to move forward…unable to move inward.
Billows of sparks burst like rising stars into the night air; lightening the heavy hearts of women who care and love and cry and muddle through the minutiae of each day, lifting their prayers to heaven. This, God, we relinquish to you – our loved ones, our hopes and dreams, our fears and our angers.
In the aftermath, beautiful hymns float high on the wind, higher than the sparks; voices gradually move from the beauty of worship into a litany of remembered campfire songs…the lilt, laughter and spontaneous dance a fitting finale to the solemnity of letting go.
For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory. Psalm 32:7
May I say that when women gather honestly together, miracles happen? The shy and wild woman soul feels safe enough to emerge.
This night will remain a touchstone of memory for me, a reminder much like another star-filled night in December 2002 – this one a solitary moment – when I made another promise to myself…a promise to start taking chances, living my life more fully and more deeply. A promise that led me into a memorable shift and two life-changing choices in my life.
Already, joy and peace begins to fill the empty spaces left behind as the chains of self-doubt and fear of failure shattered and rose, broken, in the autumn sky. For when I let go of the old and dysfunctional, I allow space for something fresh and new. Now, I await in expectation of what will come next.
This Monday, gratitude floods in for:
241. honest women…sisters…opening their hearts and sharing their stories, lifting and holding one another in love. Women, discovering the many ways we are different and yet, in some still, small place, we are the same.
242. the way God enters, when we open the door
243. lessons recognized, learned, and now lived
244. a group of young women taking flight, choosing the difficult path; the path to a better life
246. assurance and affirmation
257. beach weather in October
248. perfect, spontaneous beach art
249. grace in the turmoil; healing in the flames
250. the courage required for humility and making wrongs right
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12