The first weekend of May we held the Mexican pastor and spouse retreat up in the beautiful Oaxacan mountains, and the Holy Spirit showed up in amazing ways!
The highlight of the retreat for me was the small group spiritual walk through the woods led by my friend and missionary colleague Janice Kelly. As Janice invited us to pay attention to nature around us and use all of our senses to connect with the Creator, we felt God’s presence in a unique and special way, both individually and as a group. I was always lagging a little behind the group, taking extra care to notice the dried leaves, flowers and insects. As we turned a corner on the path, I noticed a valley between the mountains with the sun shining down through the clouds and felt God calling me to stay a little while. I took some time to just breathe in the fresh air as I noticed two red breasted birds in the tree nearby – dancing with each other – for me!
I had this amazing sense that this was God’s early birthday gift of love showered down upon me (my birthday was the next day). I enjoyed this scene for a moment, but then I noticed the rest of the group had moved forward on the path and was no longer in sight. I felt guilty for lagging behind so much and I turned away from the light to head up the hill back into the shadowy forest, but as I look into the shadows I realized I did not want to leave this place. It was sacred. God was here. He wanted me to stay and enjoy it for just a while longer. The group would be ok without me, so I turned back and the birds were still there dancing away, but now they were also singing! It was so beautiful, tears filled my eyes and I just allowed myself to be loved by my Creator. I don’t know how many more minutes I was there, but eventually I knew I needed to move on, but this time I was OK with entering into the shadow. It wasn’t long before I caught up to the rest of the group and was able to share my experience with the group.
Later as I reflected on this gift from God, I wondered to myself how many times have I just totally missed the gift? Because I wasn’t really looking for it, or was too busy with other things, or felt guilty for taking the time to really enjoy it?
Last night, Nils told me to grab a book and head up to the roof-top terrace to read and watch the sun set while he put the boys down. So I went up with my book but God’s beautiful creation was calling me to just sit and enjoy the moment. I watched the clouds move over the mountains and the sun set change the color of the sky as I felt the cool breeze on my skin. Then, to my surprise – two red-bellied birds showed up to dance for me again! God’s grace showering upon me once more. Thank you, Lord, for the moments where we take time to notice and receive your gift of love for us. May we be more in tune to the ways you are calling us to yourself.