We were away for the past few days on a retreat with all our staff, foreign and national. We drove on a bus to a famous mountain called E Mei Shan. There are mountains surrounding this city of 14 million we live in, but the haze and clouds from both natural and unnatural sources keep us from ever glimpsing them. This weekend was a rare and refreshing retreat into the beauty we know is nearby... but don't often have easy access to.
Our hotel was more of an "inn" with hard beds and meals served that did not, surprisingly, even include drinking water. We were well prepared though (we've been on trips like this before) with lots of fruit, crackers, bread, and even some cinnamon chip scones for breakfast (I did remember the french press and did forget the coffee grounds which left me in a deep state of regret for several hours).
The hike up the first part of the mountain, which is all we with our additional six little legs could undertake, was full of greenery, stunning drops into the river ravine, charming and strappy porters carting touristy paraphanalia up and down the path, hazy but serene views of lakes and bridges, and wooded mountains rolling heavily into the distance.
We stopped for awhile to throw rocks (which turned into boulders) in the water, doing our best to re-arrange the carefully balanced ecosystem of the river, and then trooped back to the trailhead where we stopped for lunch at a little restaurant.
The weekend was simple and refreshing in some ways, challenging and a bit uncomfortable in others.
It is beautiful to sit and worship in two different languages, each sensing the unity in knowing and lifting our faces to the one and same God.
To lay your eyes upon greenery and the natural wonders of this world feels almost as necessary as drinking a glass of cool water; when you don't have it often enough you begin to feel rather parched and dry.
It is challenging to sleep five people in three twin beds, but there are strange moments in the early morning with the the little one curled next to you when you think of how blessed you are, and how little you had to fight for the family you have, especially when the woman down the hall may be faced with the choice to keep her baby or her husband- a choice no mother should have to make.
A friend that I barely know prayed words for me this morning, that I would accept this place with the expectation of what God will do here, and would be thankful for the good things we that had there (previous home). Her spirit evidenced such thankfulness, and joyful trust in what He is doing and where He is leading, that I felt embraced and calmed and comforted by it, knowing my own spirit, by the power of the Spirit within me, can and must evidence the same things.
We are home now, kids in bed, a mug of lemon tea in my hands. I am thankful for the mug of coffee that awaits me in the morning, for the clean tiles of my bathroom, for the space of my bed, and more than ever for the security I rest in knowing I am a child of a King. My circumstances, difficult as they may be for me to enjoy at this point, are more the pouting fits a child throws when a parent brings them to the doctor rather than the park to play. I am not a lost child, wandering the streets like an orphan, wondering what my life is about. I am a loved and dearly cared for daughter, who is merely having a little trouble taking what is given from her Father. But we all know, that is just why the Daddy is there for in the first place.