God Led Me to Find Rest in Chautauqua

God Led Me to Find Rest in Chautauqua

I hadn’t really wanted to get up when the alarm went off, but I did because she’d asked me to come. This was the daughter who’d recently begun to like me again, and I wasn’t going to miss it.

Josie Love was in art school for the summer and had invited me for her mid-summer show at Chautauqua. Our friends had a 100-year-old summer home just off the lake there and offered it to me during my visit. I had no idea what an offer it would be, except that I had the entire place to myself.

Once I saw the sleeping porch on top of the house, I knew this was my choice for where I’d spend my time. The view could be seen from wall-to-wall windows on all sides, a perfect 360-degree bird’s eye of tree branches and housetops, blooming gardens, and the lake that stretched north and east as far as I could see. The thought of getting to read and write among the treetops within sight of the lake made me giddy, and I smiled.

While the house itself sat less than 20 feet from the road with passers-by coming and going all day long on foot or by bike, the screened porch’s unexpected placement on top of the house, hidden from view of the street, yielded a sense of privacy and sanctuary I hadn’t known I needed until I was in it.

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Deep peace and joy settled, like someone opened me up and poured in something rich, like melted chocolate or raspberry jam. And like the dehydrated person who doesn’t know how thirsty she is until she starts drinking, I realized in the peaceful presence of that upstairs space, how deep my longings were for what it offered me—safety and solitude. Rest.

My personal life was stressful, and I wondered if that was the reason-beneath-the-reason for my visit with my daughter: I needed a break. I sure didn’t hesitate to book my flight when she invited me. Whatever the reason, I’d felt compelled to be there.

When I met up with Josie Love, we biked around Chautauqua and toured the art school where I met her friends, but then it was time for her to return to work and for me to settle in at the house. Like my own magical wardrobe to another land, the porch promised me something I couldn’t name but knew I wanted, and I headed up to find out what had drawn me to settle myself and my suitcase there at first sight.

The glass windows were flung open with gusts of wind coming through the screens, fresh off the water. I read and journaled until my eyelids were heavy, and read and journaled ’til my pen hit the floor. The pull-chain, bare bulb ceiling light at the stair landing, beckoning bugs and other winged beings, flickered and went black, like someone had taken a deep breath and blown.

That night, the porch opened a door into the treetops as the soft voices of anonymous neighbors drifted in, some of them owls. The vaulted, wood-beamed ceiling beckoned above, its exposed green timbers extending so far overhead, they joined branches, supported sky—moon—milky way. I rocked in a giant porch swing nestled under downy covers as the wind blew colder and wilder.

I expected to see Max in my own dreamy version of Where the Wild Things Are as I slept, and maybe I did? I don’t remember seeing wild things, but I do remember that, like Max, I was unafraid in this new place that carried me away.

Deep peace and joy settled, like someone opened me up and poured in something rich, like melted chocolate or raspberry jam.

The next morning, Instacart brought groceries, and Josie and I made plans for the rest of the weekend. We played cards and hung out, but mainly she worked on art, and I read and journaled in the treehouse, both of us as happy as two-introverted peas-in-separate-pods can be.

A Joyful Place to Find Rest

I fed her friends supper after the art show and was relieved when they headed out afterwards for drinks. It was nearly sunset, that golden-glow-time between day and night, and I couldn’t wait to experience it among those leafy boughs.

I climbed up as the sun went down. In its final blaze of light, the green all around me lit up as if plugged in a light socket. There was the dusty green of the treehouse itself and the bright, vibrant hues outside that waved in every window. It was a dazzling show since the rain had started falling—a golden, green-wash of sparkling light all around, so blinding, I had to squint and reach for my sunglasses.

I breathed deeply. There it was again, a kind of liquid love, filling me up full as it rose to my eyes and spilled down my cheeks. My heart was so tight, I thought it would burst, and I thought, or heard, or thought I heard, “I am restoring your soul,” and the words of Psalm 23 came to mind:

He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters.”

Indeed, the colors around me as I ate and read and wrote and slept were green, green, and more green, and there was the quiet of this old house and the tranquil water at the bottom of the hill. I’d felt at peace and joyful ever since arriving. Had he been restoring me? It sure felt like it.

After Moses and the Israelites get the tabernacle built, the cloud of God’s presence descends, and his glory fills it so full, Moses can’t get in. God’s all about connecting with his people and living with them “in all their travels.” It’s why Jesus came. And ever since, he doesn’t just live among them; he lives within them by his Spirit. He longs for us to know him intimately, like a sheep knows its Shepherd, like a daughter knows her mother, like a Beloved knows her Lover (Ex 40:17-38, MSG).

Need some time away, but just not sure how to explain that to your family? Dr. Zoe Shaw advises:

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