As I drove back from a Quiet Retreat with some other ladies at Lake Charles, I saw a number of cars at Ankeny Bird Refuge in the bird blind area for photographers. Although I didn’t have a camera with me, except on my cell phone, I couldn’t help swinging in to that area to see what might be captivating their attention.
People with large lenses on their cameras gazed out at the lake and the marshy area where a flock of white pelicans sat on a log in a row. A blue heron fished in the foreground. Ducks swam peacefully. Excitement filled the air, and I thought about how we are drawn to beauty. Massive white wings spread out gracefully as one pelican took off from the log and soared over the water.
A woman next to my van had a camera with a big long lens. We struck up a conversation as we admired the birds before us. She told me she had a head injury, and shared a bit of her journey with me. I told her I’ve worked as a rehabilitation counselor, so I understand how hard that road can be. She said she makes up stories about turkey vultures and other creatures, and she spoke of faith without walls. We exchanged contact info, and she’ll send me a few pictures of the gorgeous birds we observed. I gave her the rest of my sack lunch and a plastic spoon so she could stay longer and admire the scene unfolding in front of her even though she was getting hungry. We had an instant bond because we have both known suffering, and we are both drawn to beauty.
Earlier this morning, I sat beside still waters at Lake Charles. I came for a Quiet Retreat, a welcome oasis in a busy season. Along with seven other women, we were drawn to His Presence in the quiet of a cool August morning. I loved time with God in nature. A blue heron flew over, and an osprey flew from the branches of the majestic old maple tree that provided me with shade on the bank of the lake. God’s Word spoke peace and encouragement to my heart. Worship flowed naturally. Words seemed unnecessary as my soul communed with His.
When we gathered around a picnic table after a few hours, we shared our hearts with one another. We talked about the ways His Presence had ministered to us this morning in the silence. We spoke of suffering and joys, of intimacy with Him and deepening our trust in Him through big and small interactions. An older woman said that He reminded her to trust Him, and that when she loses something He helps her find it. She told us to remember that He is a loving Father and we can trust Him for everything in our lives. A girl approaching her final year of high school spoke of her anticipation of what lies ahead, and learning to wait upon the Lord. She is learning to view this season of her life as a time set apart in the secret places, a time to know Him more intimately.
Others shared burdens and joys. Then we brought all of our concerns before a holy God who loves us and welcomes our requests. He never turns His face from us, but instead “after you have suffered for a little while, God Himself establishes, strengthens and confirms.”
We talked about how God uses suffering to draw us closer to Himself. We prayed for one another, with tears and laughter, entering His Presence with joy and emerging with peace and hope on our faces. An older woman spoke words of blessing over the youngest one among us. Jesus met with us. We all with unveiled faces, beheld His glory and basked in His beauty.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (NASB)
After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
1 Peter 5:10 (NASB)