I’ve had a hard time catching my breath these past few weeks, a hard time stepping away from the noise, pausing long enough to notice God, present in every moment.
Instead thoughts have snagged at my soul, tendrils of doubt winding round the fibers of my heart, anger budding, growing, ripening. For I’ve been turning away from God. Just a breadth. Not consciously or purposely, but a little bit more each day.
This is how I arrived on the banks of the Umpquah. Hands clenched. Life heavy.
The door swung wide to a warm embrace and I wanted to turn away.
As we broke into small groups that first morning of the retreat*, we were asked to share why we’d come and what we hoped to take away.
Tears spilled into my words, “When we’d registered, this had seemed like such a good idea. But now?” Pause. Sob. “Now? I just want to survive it.”
Tuesday morning dawned over rolling hills, fog painting a watercolor tree line, an eagle soaring over the Umpquah, robins bobbing in a pasture along with a cow and her calf and half a dozen wild turkeys.
“I just want to go home,” I’d told my husband through a torrent of tears, leaning on the bathroom counter.
God had opened the door to this place. Every step of the way. From a Google search, “Christian, photography, retreat,” to open registration to flights and hotels and a rental car, the pieces had easily fallen into place.
Here I was. Away. With time and space to breathe. But I was battling God, clenching my fists. Wanting nothing more than to turn and run the other way.
We stayed and later that day, after suddenly realizing I’d dominated a conversation, I quickly apologized.
“No,” she said. “Don’t. Your story is inspiring.”
I stepped away then, needing to breathe. Alone. In this wide open space amid rolling hills and roaming cattle. Needed to stand, still. And listen.
And in the quiet, in the still, I caught my breath.
For suddenly, light streamed through the clouds igniting the moss-covered trees. Colors exquisite. Mystical. Shape. Texture. Moment. Place.
Light stirring the embers of my soul.
I pulled the journal out of my jacket pocket and stared at the word I’d written hours earlier. “Light.”
We’d been asked to spend some time alone with God. To get honest and ask, “God, who do you want to be for me in this place that you can’t be to me anyplace else?”
I’d written, “Light. Light? Really, God? Light? You want to be light?”
Exquisite. Brilliant. Unmistakable.
Like this moment?
Yes. And for each step and every breath along the way, if only you’ll let Me.
I had stopped trusting God, and hadn’t even known it.
Maybe that’s why I was here. And why I needed to stay.
Later, Erin sat down across the table from me and said, “I had a vision of you. I never have visions. You were sitting at a desk in front of a large window, writing and light was streaming in, all this light…”
I stopped her. “That was my word,” I whispered. “Light.”
Light for this step and the next and the next. If only I don’t turn away.
Every step in the presence of almighty God.
To love. To tremble. To live.
*This was my first For the Love, and I left forever changed.