Updated: Jan 27, 2022
Well, a new year is upon us. As I consider this new year, I'm thinking about the truth in the old adage, "The only constant is change." There has been plenty of change in our lives the last year with more to follow. The most impactful so far has been the sale of our home, a massive downsizing effort, and our move into our Class A RV for full-time living. We'd talked about making the change for a while. But I can tell you that nothing can prepare you for the reality of it. As you might imagine, all that change and uncertainty has sent this melancholy girl on a quest for some serious refuge.
Refuge. The word means so many different things to so many different people. But it's an important concept, especially in our world today. Refuge doesn't have to be a physical place. It can be an experience. It can be a memory. It's any state of being that provides you comfort or brings you back from the precipice.
People find refuge in many ways. Of course, it's very important to find a healthy refuge. Today's world will certainly provide you with lots of unhealthy options. Healthy refuge can be found by immersing oneself in a faith or spiritual practice, by contributing to one's community through volunteer work, by connecting with nature through outdoor activities, by engaging in a hobby, or by spending quality time with people who foster the light inside. The possibilities are endless.
Many years ago, I would seek refuge in things. I was certainly no stranger to engaging in some serious retail therapy. As I recently watched years of accumulated stuff go out the door during our estate sale, I realized the futility in seeking comfort in things. You truly can't take it with you when you go, and you might be surprised to learn that it doesn't hold much value even while you're here. Over the years, and especially over this last two years, my definition of refuge has changed dramatically. As the world tipped into insanity and I was suddenly cloistered and surrounded by my "things," I found little comfort in them. Instead, my refuge came in the form of a little brown dog's ability to garner a smile as she crawled into my lap to lick the tears from my cheek; in my husband's unwavering efforts to keep me tethered to the light through unconditional love and patience; through capturing, expressing, and prolonging my reverence for Nature with a new-found hobby of photography; and by an unexpected opportunity to productively channel my enthusiasm for the outdoors by volunteering at a local state park.
No. I no longer find refuge in things. I find it in experiences...and in love.
Recently, a very dear friend of mine received a terminal cancer diagnosis. During a visit with her, she shared a special place with me that she likes to go to find refuge. She is strong in her faith, so one of her sources of refuge is a quiet little chapel where she can connect with God and find strength for her journey. I was honored that she shared the chapel with me, and I made a point to go there not long after our visit. It was so beautiful and serene. But I was more honored that, in spite of her pain and anxiety about the future, she chose to share some of her very precious time with me. I was fortunate enough to spend an afternoon with her. We talked about many things...life and death, the state of the world, the past, the future, etc. She and I have a special bond and are like-minded on so many things. We cried. We laughed. We shared comfortable silence. It was wonderful. She had no idea that she was providing a refuge for me. I was able to momentarily escape from my burdens and self-imposed anxiety to find refuge in the warmth of our conversation and connection...in her love. I will treasure the gift of her time - the gift of a refuge - forever.
I'm so fortunate to have my husband of over 40 years as a source of refuge, as well as my sweet puppy, Maddie, my slightly "off" kitty, Abby Normal, and a handful of stalwart friends. However, I also find a tremendous amount of comfort in Nature. It's while spending time with Nature that I connect with God as I feel closest to Him there. Perhaps, it's the realization that I've spent more time on this earth than I have left on this earth that causes me to seek a more spiritual refuge at this time in my life. Perhaps, it's deeply experiencing the grieving process as I mourn for absent things and the comfort of a certain way of life as I step into the uncertainties of a new "normal." Perhaps, it's witnessing the current state of humanity and finding little promise or joy there. Perhaps, it's an uneasy, foreboding sense about the future. No matter the impetus, I find myself constantly seeking a higher spiritual connection to provide me with a safe space...a refuge. I long for and seek out the "thin places" where I can connect with and take refuge in a connection with a Higher Power. They provide momentary glimpses of an everlasting refuge that awaits me. Momentary experiences of a peace that eludes me here. Sometimes, I try to capture the experience with my camera to share with other Seekers. I feel I come up woefully short on most occasions. However, I'll keep trying as the process is a refuge in itself.
So many in the world are seeking refuge now. What is refuge to you? Could you, perhaps, be the source of refuge for another person? Where will you find your refuge this year?