Last week I flew away to a green island in British Columbia, Canada. It was wonderful. There wasn’t any snow! I travelled with four other women and a baby, and while the weather was rainy and cool, the time spent was warm and sweet.

The harbour in Vancouver. See the big white ferry? That is NOT the one we took. Ours was much smaller!

The harbour in Vancouver. See the big white ferry? That is NOT the one we took. Ours was much smaller!

See that teeny little boat down there? That was ours. The rain held off for the forty-five minute ride across the water, and the scenery was breath-taking.

See that teeny little boat down there? That was ours. The rain held off for the forty-five minute ride across the water, and the scenery was breath-taking.

We docked here, on Keats Island.

We docked here, on Keats Island.

And we ended up here, at Barnabas Landing. Rainy weather but warm hearts.

And we ended up here, at Barnabas Landing. Rainy weather but warm hearts.

The beautiful, ever-changing view as the clouds lifted and fell on the islands across the water and the mountains in the distance. Majesty!

The beautiful, ever-changing view as the clouds lifted and fell on the islands across the water and the mountains in the distance. Majesty!

The week was hosted by the organization Come before Winter. Founded by Karen Alexander, from Austin, Texas, it has grown into a ministry which travels around the world, ministering to women in ministry. Cool, yes?

I attended a Come before Winter renewal in Saskatchewan several years ago, and what struck me then was the actual ministering that went on. CbW team members met us when we arrived, carried our bags into the hotel, knew our names. Throughout the week there were activities and much study, but the take away for me, that time, was the gracious care given to the participants. To me. It’s not something women, caregivers, experience very often.

This time, I was expecting it. The caring attention and the love. And it was wonderful, but it wasn’t the focus of the week for me. This time, it was the study.

We studied Exodus, a book I already loved for the rich story it shares, but we studied it from different perspectives. We looked at things like narrative (looking at the story with the purpose of identifying and writing the story of my own walk with God), transformation (the importance of spiritual practices in the rhythm of life), structure (looking at the structure of two chapters, 19 and 24, in order to discover how they reveal that God’s presence is intertwined with the covenant established at Mt. Sinai), and theology (expanding our understanding of the nature of God). And there was art and there was exercise and there was quiet, reflective time.

And there was conversation. The holiness of community. Connections, deeply spiritual, made among women meeting each other for the first time. Renewal of relationship among some who had met before. Belonging, sharing, communing.

Beautiful Pauline, the wife of Benny, a friend I haven't seen in thirty years. I was so blessed to meet and become heart-joined with this amazing woman. Pauline, I think a trip to Australia is in our future!

Beautiful Pauline, the wife of Benny, a friend I haven’t seen in thirty years. I was so blessed to meet and become heart-joined with this amazing woman. Pauline, I think a trip to Australia is in our future!

Julia and Sally, the women who, along with Brooke, I was privileged to share words with each evening. (Sorry Brooke, but your eyes were closed in every picture I have of you!)

Julia and Sally, the women who, along with Brooke, I was privileged to share words with each evening. (Sorry Brooke, but your eyes were closed in every picture I have of you!)

Naomi, one of my wonderful roommates. Ms. Peanut Allergy. Thankful for EpiPens, and nurses who know what they are doing. I love this girl!

Naomi, one of my wonderful roommates. Ms. Peanut Allergy. Thankful for EpiPens, and nurses who know what they are doing. I love this girl!

Imogene and Barbara, who brought laughter and delight and joy and soul with them. Oh my! What blessings!

Imogene and Barbara, who brought laughter and delight and joy and soul with them. Oh my! What blessings!

And then I came home.

Home to snow and family and snow and empty cupboards and that long list and snow.

But I am carrying with me, still and quiet and deep, the beauty of that island and the renewal of that shared time.

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