When Beth and I returned to Pennsylvania from a tiny campus nestled in the Cascades some twenty miles from Ashland, Oregon, everyone could see we were different. During the long flight home I thought about how to explain what happened to me. I struggled to find the words, and I realize that I still don’t know exactly how to explain it. I’m realizing that is a hallmark of spiritually transformative life events, they often leave us without words to describe what happened. 


What I do know is that we withdrew ourselves from the world for four months. This withdrawal appears to have been divinely inspired. We arrived there disillusioned with the god sold to us in Evangelical circles. We were unsure and weary, but we were also aware of the potential for freedom from the shame, fear, and judgment that had ruled our lives until that point. 


And so we let the ponderosa pines inspire us. We let the smell of sage and juniper soothe us. We sank into the wisdom and wonder of questions without answers. We wrote, we read, we played, we hiked, we experienced freedom. All of this was mixed up in the unexplainable presence of Spirit whispering affirmations and encouraging us to simply enjoy all that life there had to offer us. 


Beth and I go back there every March. When we arrive all the magic of that place rushes back into our hearts and we feel like children again. We go there every year for that reason. Our souls always arrive there in the same state, weary, unsure, but we know we will be filled again.

 —Mark Pratt-Russum