Last week we enjoyed a beautiful fall day in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. We drove along Highway 81 to Roanoke and on to Natural Bridge. The kids were “forced” to go. The trees were shining in all of their colored glory, there were no clouds, mist, or other types of precipitation falling from the skies. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day.
We were going to meet up with some old friends as they were coming in from the opposite direction. We got to the visitor center and used the bathroom, looked at all of the souvenirs, and said “no” about a thousand times. We ordered lunch at the deli there in the center and then purchased our tickets to see the park. Our friends were not there so we decided to go on and walk slow. With three kids in tow it was better to walk slow than remain in a large room with hundreds of things for sale and each and every one of them calling out to the kids.
“Buy Me!” I could hear the T-shirts calling. The coffee mugs, the all-purpose knives, and the plastic bow and arrow sets were all urging, “Bring your parents over for a look. They will buy if you look pitiful enough!” To their credit they pointed out mini-license plates with their own names on them, wooden bowls emblazoned with Natural Bridge, cards, flashlights, and tea sets with beautiful roses on them. Back scratchers, books, coasters, graphic prints, games, hats, scarves…all intended to belong to one of my children. The merchandise beckoned so we moved on to the great outdoors and did NOT, for one nano-second, regret leaving the items in their display cases.
Once outdoors we took pictures and descended 137 steps. A stream followed along and the wind was breezy enough to provide the perfect amount of air conditioning. At the bottom of the stairs we handed over our tickets and there it was. Magnificent! A bridge created from the power of water over the years. We ambled. We stopped to take more pictures. We talked and pointed and enjoyed the absolute slowness of our day. We tipped our heads far back as we walked under the bridge to the other side. I could hear the voices of the pitiful “forced” children making sounds of awe and admiration. They were grinning ear to ear in each picture and we all discussed the marvels of God. We sat on the benches and gloried in the sunlight.
Immediately in front of the bridge, stood an Artist. He was set up as if he were on the bank of a river in Paris. He had his easel and a small umbrella was shading him from the sun. He was making small dabs and strokes with his paints. The overall effect was beautiful. A good representation of the bridge and the natural beauty surrounding it. We stopped to talk with him and look at his masterpiece. He showed us one that he had painted in the fullness of summer and it, too, was beautiful. We wished him a good day and moved on.
The boys climbed where they could, threw every loose pebble into the stream and, of course, spit a few times over the edge. Our friends texted that they were right behind us. We met up with them and then all strolled through the Indian village and on to the falls at the end of the path. We took more pictures and visited as we walked.
On the way back through the bridge, the Artist was still there, working on his masterpiece. I glanced at it but kept walking. I thought I heard the pre-teen say – out LOUD – to the Artist, “Huh, it didn’t change any since we last saw it.” I kept moving and asked my friend, “Did he just say that out loud?” She laughed and nodded. Dad was coming up behind the pre-teen and moved him on down the path.
We enjoyed a small snack at the outdoor café and then departed. They were headed east and we were coming back west. The kids were tired, dad was tired and the teen drove us in about twilight. An absolutely perfect day!
I have thought a bit about what the pre-teen said that day. He couldn’t see changes in the masterpiece, but the Artist knew they were there. Some very subtle, some very small. Some to add texture, others to highlight. But changes nonetheless.
I keep thinking that the Artist of MY LIFE is constantly making subtle changes. Giving opportunity here and there. Loving and faithful. Working it all out for good. Others may not see it. At times, I may not even realize it.
But surely, steadily, He is working on me. Transforming me. Brushstroke by brushstroke.
Nothing big. Nothing fast. Just one little stroke at a time.
I pray that no one will look at my life and say, “Huh, she didn’t change any since we last saw her.”
I am a Masterpiece in Progress.