Who knew that a mere four hour drive from my apartment through the beautiful mountains surrounding Kosovo would take me to the seaside? Make that “Albania’s beautiful shore on the Adriatic Sea.”
I did not visit the Roman Amphitheatre there. I did not go to the castle or visit the museum. I did not stroll around the 9thcentury church with its mosaic walls. I didn’t even check those sites out. Nor did I ask about them.
I went to the beach. I rested. I soaked in the sun and waded in the chilly water. I picked up stones washed smooth along the shore. I pushed my feet into the soft warm sand. I breathed the clean air and let the breeze wash over me like a sweet song to my soul.
But the best part of it all was spending time with friends both old and new. The church I attend in Prishtina partnered with a sister church in Kosovo to plan this retreat. In addition, a team of believers from the United States joined us as well as a couple of people connected to the church in other ways. Over seventy people, men women, and children gathered at a seaside hotel in Durres for a time of renewal. A time to fill our hearts with song and verse. A time to rest.
Gil, our speaker for the event, both entertained us and challenged us by retelling parables Jesus shared. The music, offered both in Albanian and in English, filled the room. One of the guests from America offered his testimony. Worship time in the evening and on Sunday morning brought with it yet another layer of rest, renewal, and peace.
And there was more.
I met a woman named Harriet who lost her husband twenty years ago. Her care and counsel encouraged me.
I rode there and back with a precious family of three whose two-year-old son sang all the verses to Ten Thousand Reasons. Many times. This is a song I’ve often struggled through since losing Tom. This sweet child wants to hear it over and over. Now I can sing the verse “And on that day when my strength is failing, the end draws near and my time has come…” without reliving that day in the hospital when Tom died. My vision when I hear that song now will be a sweet two-year-old singing in his car seat all the way to Albania and back. It was wonderful.
o close my eyes and relive the warmth of my retreat at the beach. I'll be able to feel the sand between my toes. I'll hear the voice of a precocious toddler.
“The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning,
It’s time to sing your song again,
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me,
Let me be singing when the evening comes.”