Today was normal, for the most part. i went to class and i came home and we ate lunch and took our siesta. We walked to the plaza and got treats and enjoyed the Spanish sunshine. Our days here are easy; they move slowly but pass quickly and are full of little gifts.
When we left the plaza this afternoon, our friends led us to a little garden that is hidden among the most historic buildings in Salamanca. The garden is not large or extravagant, but today, it was perfect.
When we first walked it, my eyes widened at the sight of the roses and the life that surrounded me. i wandered around, seeing roses the size of my face and flowers i didn't know existed. The garden was designed with the perfect benches and gives its visitors an incredible overview of the city. Though this was my first time visiting it, i immediately felt at home.
My dad gardens and he gardens well. My Creator is the maker of all things. He is THE cultivator of life on this planet and He delights in all He has made. This includes the little garden in the middle of this city. It also includes me. i was created, both spiritually and biologically, to delight in the beauty of gardens. When i walked into that garden today, something inside of my God-made heart clicked. The quiet, peaceful oasis in the middle of this city welcomed me into rest. This garden was shalom. And i never wanted to leave.
After my first turn around the garden, i made home on a bench on one of the outer walls. i sat across from a fountain (that multiple locals (and birds) drank from) and watched as tourists and locals and everyone in between visited this place of shalom. i wanted an older couple pick some mint and the woman celebrate the idea of a mojitos. i watched couples take selfies and photographers bend above the roses in attempt to capture their beauty. i saw friends stroll along its paths, pointing and smiling and enjoying each other in this simply beautiful setting.
In between my people watching, i was lost inside the pages of my current read. It is a memoir, titled, "The Glass Castle" and it is one of the most fascinating and sad and incredible books i've ever read. i have been devouring its pages over the last few days; getting lost in the lives of its young protagonist and praying that i will one day be able to remember my childhood as Jeannette Walls does.
At one point, the intensity of the memoir and the reality of my past combined and tears formed in my eyes. This book is teaching me a lot, though i cannot relate to most of it (thank you, Jesus). Most of the time, when tears form, i push them away. Today, i welcomed them. It felt safe to cry in that garden among roses and strangers and friends. i think safety is a big part of shalom: that freedom to feel everything you need to in order to maintain the indescribable peace.
While i was basking in the shalom and reading the story and experiencing the most incredible joy, my precious roommate was doing the same. A few feet away from my home on the bench, Carolina laid down and embraced her Creator and felt the same shalom that i did. What a gift.
Eventually, we left the shalom garden and made our way back to our semi-real life in the city. As we walked back to the streets of tourists and stores and Spanish, we laughed and celebrated what a simple and perfect and spiritual experience the garden had been. And i knew i had to write about it because i never want to forget our first visit there.
We will return, probably more than once, to the shalom garden in the next few weeks. Though our life here is simple and the days are kind, the gift of shalom is not something to pass up. Sometimes you just need to sit among the roses and be.