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Navigating Storms, Riding the Waves, Adjusting the Sails

By Brenda Riojas,

I Start Wondering Columnist

Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, 1633, Rembrandt
Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, 1633, Rembrandt

Rembrandt in his twenties painted his only seascape – Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee. A canvas print of the painting hangs in my office as a question prompt: Where do you find yourself today on the boat?

Recently Dorian Martin, founder of I Start Wondering, asked how I was doing during one of her check-ins with each of us contributors. I am grateful for Dorian’s friendship, for the way she takes time to reach out to friends and finds ways to connect. She provides space to share our stories and the chaos they may come with. In doing so we can be there for one another and learn from each other.

She followed up with this question: “How do we as a group help women move through chaos?”

We each have moments of chaos; sometimes these can be storms of different magnitudes. How we respond and move through these moments varies. Let’s take advantage of the gift of this platform (I Start Wondering) to share how we navigate and move ahead.

I make no secret that my faith life is central to my journey. In my own life, as I celebrate both joys — my new role as a grandmother — and sorrows — unexpected health challenges, I am grateful for my faith. It is what keeps me afloat. Trusting in God and having loved ones I can turn to is my saving grace.

Returning to Rembrandt’s painting, which was inspired from a story in the Bible (Mark 4:35-41), look closely at the figures he portrays. Look at their different expressions. Amid the waves crashing against the boat, on the verge of taking it down, Jesus appears asleep and each of the men on the boat is depicted responding differently. Some of the disciples are panicked, some are focused on trying to keep the boat afloat, some are in prayer, some look angry at the Lord, one is cowering in the background, while another is visibly sick.

Who do you relate to? What storm are you confronting? Where do you find yourself today on the boat?

A few years ago while on retreat, the retreat leader used the painting to illustrate that indeed there are storms in our lives, but that we must trust in the Lord, assured that the storm will pass.

Pause & Assess

There are other questions that can help us work through chaos. First, own the moment. Name it.

Embrace the emotions that come with it. What is the moment signaling? Could it be a transition phase, the end of a page or a chapter and the beginning of another? How does our response impact the moment? Does it paralyze? Does it provide an opportunity for growth? Is it preparing us for the next challenge? Is it an opportunity to reach out to another, to the people in our lives who form our support network?

As we rely on one another, we strengthen our relationships. It’s okay to ask for help. We are human. Others can help us see the chaos in a different light or offer suggestions on how to move through the chaos.

Sometimes when the chaos seems to overtake me, I like to pause and step away. This could mean leaving my office for a few moments to go get a cup of coffee or tea or spending some time in the chapel. If I need more time, I go on retreat. This could be a few hours in my art studio or a day or two away for a guided retreat. There are times that call for us to take a step back. We need time to refocus or to reenergize before we continue forward. Remember, this too shall pass.

Share your experience. How do you adjust the sails? Let’s help each other move through the chaos.

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