Locked Out

September 28, 2013

Locked Out Blog

River Road's two lanes gently wind past gated mansions and gilded-age estates, rolling in  landscaped acres to the banks of the James. One of my absolute favorite drives in Richmond. I was out, alone, driving and life was good. An event had caught my eye as it rolled through my Facebook feed earlier in the week. My Pastor and our worship leader were in leading a prayer gathering at a lovely retreat center. I thought: l used to love that drive, and I used to love these kind of events....and then there was the matter of a small prayer group I was starting at church that Sunday which was making me nervous. Why not? The family got grilled cheese, I tossed on a different shirt (one not coated in sand from the playground and something from breakfast), dashed out the door and the minivan and I headed west.  So driving, squinting at mailbox numbers in the falling dusk to see if I'm getting close. And then, yes! Success! A huge sign with the name and address. And a locked gate. I drove up a few more streets thinking there would be another entrance. Didn't see anything. Wondered if I was just late. Or just lost. Then ....worried I shouldnt have left my preschooler right before bed when he'd been so clingy all afternoon. Worried my one year old would be fussy. Noticed a storm was rolling in anyway. Headed home. Contemplative prayer was happening somewhere just beyond that gate in a perfectly prepared room, with ancient prayers, candles spread on a table, and an amazing view (I did see the view on Face Book. Amazing). I was headed back to recite my own mantras -  Harry the Dog three times and Brown Bear twice. Gifted musicians were leading worship, and I was off to sing "Jesus Loves You" as I have every night for four years.

Later, I learned if I had driven just one block more I'd have seen the wide open entrance gate and an even bigger sign. 
But that pit in my stomach as I looked at the locked gate and just gave up a little too soon had less to do with vague directions, and everything with my spirit. As much as I love River Road, I hate it too. I hate the feeling that comes whispering that as amazing as all those homes are, you can look but the gates are locked and you know, deep within you will never be a person who could live in a place like that. What was I even thinking going to this fancy retreat center, and what was I thinking leading a prayer group? My life is a constant battle just to keep a dozen plates spinning in the air and more days than not my prayer life is my moments alone in the car. Locked out? Yes. That was exactly how I felt. Longing to be at the table of fellowship with God and simply lost, stressed and giving up right before the gate he has wide open beckoning me to come and eat.  

Looking tonight around my cluttered living room, covered in toys and sleeping dogs and a man who loves me on the couch, smiling, waiting for me to finish writing. This is indeed a place I would once have seen only from the outside, locked out, almost completely given up hope to ever be here. But I trusted God enough to stay on the path to healing. I kept walking. Secretly despairing for unattainable mansions, mercy let me arrive at a very real.... home.

And my banquet is prepared...

In the mushy kiss of my child reminding me in a rush how we prayed for years to have these children and did not know what we prayed for would undo and recreate our entire world.

In the moments the sun breaks through the clouds in spectacular beams and God's presence breaks through a quiet moment and the car is a cathedral and I remember I am an artist and I called to see the miraculous in the mundane. That mud is God's chosen medium. That prayer is not for the perfect, but for those who know how desperately dependent on grace we all really are. 

In the way provision comes mysteriously and perfectly, keeping us on our knees, waiting for the next open doors through this most perfect, imperfect season.

Keep walking. 

Keep driving.

Keep crawling if you have to.

The gate is just ahead..... and it is wide open....


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  • Guest (Drexel Rayford)


    Your reflections touch me deeply, Rachel. Wonderfully said. I know which gate you're talking about - and I also know the other locked gates, too. I find it very ironic that I was on the other side of one of those shut gates. In the future, when we have events at Roslyn, I'm going to make sure that we make reference to that gate - and I'll probably use imagery inspired by your musings.

  • Guest (Rachel)

    In reply to: Guest (Drexel Rayford) Permalink

    Thank you! I think we all have our moments when we are on boths sides of the "gate." We have all stood knocking at a door that never opened, and put chains on doors once we are through for our own safety. Less locked gates, mbore open pathways. Not everyone will come seeking comminity from the direction we assume! (Although, I don't suppose most places will go for the literal wide open gate thing in the interest of symbolism)


 I'm a designer, wife and mother of two.  I post my work and on the places where creativity and life’s clutter intersect. Looking for inspiration and finding balance.  Join me on the journey.

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TwitterRachel4My name is Rachel. Good to meet you. I like caramel coffee, the way patterns of light or color or ideas fit together, and mornings at the ocean. Dislikes include: political ads, conspicuous wealth and mornings in general. Together, my husband Buddy and I are daily challenged and blessed as we raise two children and run one business: By His Designs.

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