Once year, each April, I take time to retreat. While I am still learning about all the labels the world has tried to adhere to me, I know in my soul that when life is ... well, life, I feel the need to retreat. So, this yearly chance to get away and recenter is always a sweet space for me and helps to bring me peace.
While in the same area, this year's retreat was in a new space and brought me the opportunity to photograph new things. As we all began to settle our first night, God was out back showing off, so I slipped away to shoot. I was amazed at how the clouds had so much tone and depth and such fantastic color to them. And how the water was like an enormous glass mirror for the color and light.
As storm clouds rolled in and the light disappeared, I returned to the house for the evening. Our first morning always gives us two hours of solitude after breakfast. This is the highlight of the weekend for many of us. It seems silly that I need permission to be silent. Or that I need someone else to tell others to be silent. But as a person who feels the need to retreat in order to gain rest, I do. Like other years, I spend my two hours of silence walking and talking with God.
Walking or hiking on trails isn't always as simple as you might envision. After all, the whole point is that you feel like you are IN the woods. Of course, if you have no idea where you are, or where you are going, then getting lost and having no way back would deter a lot of people. So, there are lots of signs that show you you are on the right path, even when there are two paths to choose. Physical signs, like trail signs and the blue rhombus to mark your path, as well as visual signs, like carved out spaces or the new grass under foot.
As I continued on the trail, I was so excited to hear a small stream and I loved being able to feel like God had come closer.
When I first started the hike, there was a map (similar to the one above, but at a different starting point). I choose not to take a close look and instead followed what looked like the clear path (of course I did). Only, as I started it, I couldn't quite tell which direction to go, so I went back. I decided to go the opposite direction because there were more signs and I felt I would have clearer guidance coming from the other side. Yet, as I walked, I began to find it harder and harder to find my way. I kept looking for the signs, but I was struggling. I came to the map above and took a picture, thinking only about the story I was shooting and that signs would be a part of it. Wanting to talk about how we all want God to show us we are on the right trail; to give us signs and show us a map of the big picture - and even point to the place we are to say, look, YOU ARE HERE. The thought to use it as my own guide didn't cross my mind.
Once I was on the other side of where I had turned around before, the direction wasn't any clearer. I again searched for signs. Typically, the signs work together. You will see a clear cut path, with a sign with a hiker, and a blue rhombus in the distance. I wasn't seeing them together. Particularly the blue rhombus. What I saw instead was a very steep path that was easy to see, but certainly difficult to walk, and didn't feel right. Then I remembered the picture I had taken. So I checked the map and decided that perhaps I was too close. Low and behold, when I moved to change how I was seeing things, there in the distance was a blue rhombus - hardly noticeable in the center picture below.
And the path designed for me was, well, designed for me. No steep hills, no tall weeds to fight through, and a lovely view. There was even a marker at the end to show me that my path, while difficult, was straight ahead.
We want life to be like this: signs everywhere to tell us we are on the right path and easier trails when things are hard or don't look right. And sometimes, it is. There are clear cut signs: maps we design, paths someone has laid before us, a person we meet on the trail. Sometimes God tells us we are on the trail with a unmistakable blue rhombus. Other times, not so much. We may feel lost, even when we are on the right path, because we don't see the signs right away, if at all. We are discouraged and question where God is and why we even got on the path in the first place. We have all been there, some of us in darker places than others. And there are no easy answers.
But God reminds us that He is always with us, even when He is silent - even if we have ended up on a different path or that things are painful or hard where we are. He reminds us to take heart. He is there - He is with us. He hasn't left.
Pray for Him to help you see as He does. To be able to step back and change your perspective.
Pray that you will feel Him sitting beside you. Because it doesn't matter if we are on the path designed for us or not, He is surely there. He never leaves.
"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." ~ John 16:33
"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~ Matthew 28:20
~ Until next time,