Friday, October 26, 2012

New Heart, by Camilla Bramlett

Steve and I are hosting a married couples’ retreat this weekend at the beautiful Alhatti Christian Conference Center in Idyllwild. The theme for this year’s retreat is “Guarding the Heart of Your Marriage.”  One of the verses we will be reflecting on is a promise to remove our “hearts of stone,” replacing them with “Hearts of Flesh.” As I was preparing the devotionals for this retreat I could not help but remember a lovely story that was share with my La Mirada Memoir class several years ago. I contacted the writer and asked her permission to share it here on this blog. I hope you enjoy this very personal reflection as much as I did.
“I will give you a new heart and
Place a new spirit within you,
Taking from your bodies a stony
Heart and giving you natural hearts.”
Ezekiel 36:26
Joseph Vella, my first watercolor teacher, was an “old world” artist from Malta.  He recognized in my painting the same joy and enthusiasm he shared in his art and his faith. He demonstrated wet and dry techniques as the class practiced each exercise on sheets of white cold pressed Arches paper. I thrilled to the idea of leaving untouched the white paper as the only white in my painting. Landscapes came alive with brushing on of color, but the pure white remained, reflecting light. This caused an analogy in my mind, a subconscious connection between pure light and a reborn faith. Mr. Vella later called this awakening, my “metanoia;” a Greek word for change.
This process of conversion lasted several years, actually it still continues. I had been painting over the reality of workaholism, alcoholism, isolation in the family. Children were leaving home, going too far places. When I began water coloring I could feel my stony heart softening. A yearning to love God; the pure white of the WC paper, kept showing through the surrounding layers of paint, untouched.
In April of 1986 I attended my first Al-Anon meeting, biweekly support groups that taught me detachment through present moment living. Retreats gave me insights and guidance where I learned tolerance, forgiveness, gratitude and the ability to be responsible for my own feelings! The white untouched part of the paper; the yearning, remained.
This yearning and surrender turned out to be the Holy Spirit working in me. In January 1989, I returned to my childhood faith. Vatican II changes had taken place and reforms were sweeping the church. This is still going on. Monsignor Marron welcomed me home and gave me my first Eucharist in 35 years.
At the ranch where I found serenity in the fruit orchards, the coastal mountains, mature trees and bird life, I wrote and painted nature. Year around I walked our seasonal creek bed, both wet and dry, looking at the peace around me. One morning in my meandering, I glanced at the dry creek pebbles heaped on the bank. There was a heart shaped white stone with faint cracks waiting my searching hand. It was the symbol of Ezekiel’s renewal verse.
Thus began a collection of stone hearts discovered or revealed in various places during my travels of the past twenty years. These symbols of awakening are sacred to me. They teach me my human heart is no longer stony. It is being changed day by day to give and receive love. Now I am a Eucharistic Minister and take communion to the sick and aged in the convalescent hospitals. I am grateful to serve at daily Mass. I have trust in God’s love. I share that love with the women I sponsor. I have been given a natural heart.

1 comment:

  1. Your story clearly shows your spiritual path, thank you for sharing your discoveries with us.