look back: red fences and new lessons

red fence

I had always liked the color red. Never for a particular reason. It was just a good solid color, strong and feminine but not girly. It was as if it were the grown up version of pink. And I never did like pink.

But right now with legs splattered and hands dripping with the color, I was quite content never seeing it again. We had painted nearly everything in the bright and bold tint; the fence, the shutters, the merry-go-round, and even part of the play ground if I remembered correctly. We ourselves were nearly completely covered in it; a mixture of water and turpentine making any hopes of cleanliness worthless. I let it sink in though, feeling the comfort of being an empty canvas, the beauty of being messy and veiled in paint brought me back to my artist roots and cluttered studio. I feel a bit more complete smothered in colors.

painted legs

Our hopes of working in an orphanage during our first month out in the field had been shattered when we realized Casa Shalom was no longer home to the parentless children of Romania. Instead our month would include painting everything in sight and sorting a barn full of clothes that I’m pretty sure doubled as a black hole. We would visit with the “gypsies” and learn that the word we picked up in Disney movies was actually a derogatory name, said with contempt by the Romanians of higher status.


Month one was shaping up to resemble the local potluck lunch; you just show up and plan to take part without knowing exactly what’s going to be laid out on the table.

So we painted and small talked and attempted to become better acquainted with the women we would potentially spend the next 11 months of our lives with. And when we weren’t busy comparing ourselves or over-thinking and overanalyzing or dying a death by turpentine; we even allowed God to move. We allowed Him to speak.

paint day

It was on one of those red paint-filled afternoons that the Creator of the blue sky above me and the green grass below my bare feet began to soften my heart. I stood focused on the fence in front of me, chipping away at crusted paint and rotten wood, quietly content in my own little world, ears plugged with a podcast that didn’t require translation.

“If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” – Exodus 33:15

It was as if the world stopped for a moment while that man-spoken, God-breathed piece of scripture echoed throughout the speakers in my head and pounded down the walls of my heart. It was as if God was gently whispering into my ears and down to my soul lesson after lesson after lesson, hinting at all that one verse would mean to me in the coming months.

He took me back to a salty-eyed girl sitting on a beach house porch with sea-drenched hair blowing in the summer’s night air. He drew me back into that moment where I stared out at the ocean and saw an emptiness that matched my future, a stubbornness that believed I would survive and a brokenness that begged for something more.

And as the goats grazing behind me brought my thoughts back into the real and present hour of my life, I began to realize how desperately I needed the Presence of God to be with me. I began to believe that my heart had already been crying out for it despite my obliviousness to the need. That my spirit was echoing the words spoken by Moses as he stood on top of a mountain and pleaded with God Almighty to go with him and the rebellious people of Israel. He refused a “no” from the Creator of the universe because a life spent in the Promised Land without Him was a dried-up Eden compared to one day spent in His Presence.

With that idea, that thought, that hope and that notion planted deep within me I turned back to the task that stood before me; a worn out fence that continued to stand tall as the old was chipped and chiseled away and a new, fresh coat was painted on.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come!”
– 2 Corinthians 5:17

The pounding I felt knocking on my heart told me that it wouldn’t stop here.

photos by aj levan and caroline player

2 responses to “look back: red fences and new lessons”

  1. I love being reminded of this. You telling me about it this month and then the revelations that kept coming month and month. I still love hearing about it. It humbles me. Puts me into right perspective. Helps me to take a step back, to withdraw the zoom and actually look at the full picture again, the goals set before me and the strength that I need from Him to do it. In the wilderness where Jesus was tempted and questioned, 40 days of fasting, Jesus–the Son of God, the God with ‘flesh on’– needed to Holy Spirit togive him strength, to guide him, to comfort him, to encourage him, to keep him on right standing. Jesus was teaching us a heart attitude that would go beyond a mind’s capability to choose. I think Moses understood that same lesson; and was showing his people how desperately they needed him and how desperate his plea and desire went beyond simple choice to truly love God with all your heart soul mind and strength…even to the point where he would not move unless God went with him. And who knows how long he waited before God answered him…how long he waited before he took another step.

    Thanks for sharing dear friend. It’s a great reminder.

  2. okay, maybe this one is my favorite. it’s hard to tell.

    That verse…God keeps bringing it to me. He must be trying to tell me something…

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