A few weeks ago I gave myself the gift of a spiritual retreat by myself. The last three years have been full of having babies, challenging ministry seasons, and lots and lots and lots of laundry. I felt like before I stepped into my renewed commitment to not going completely bananas as a wife and mother, and to being on campus more hours in the fall this was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. It was 48 hours at Jon’s parents’ cabin in Flagstaff.
Here is a journal entry from my first day, its pretty boring. I didn’t bring out the real, heavy, deep stuff until the next day. But I’m not likely to share that on this blog 🙂
“What do I do? As Jon was finishing up packing the car, and as I was cleaning up the little ones to get them ready to get into their car seats I had a huge ball of nerves in my stomach. I was nervous about my whole world driving down the mountain with out me. I was nervous about the kids driving Jon absolutely crazy over the next two days.
But mostly I was nervous to be alone.
Immediately after I waved good bye to my loved ones and the realization that I was completely alone came, I had the urge to call a friend or my mom. But I resisted. If I am going to survive a retreat of silence I need to be okay being by myself with nothing and no one to distract me, entertain me or need me. So instead i finished the final details on my schedule which would run for this Sunday evening through Tuesday late morning. That was 12:45 pm. I grabbed one of my favorites summer time treats, a deliciously cold Hefeweizen and sat on the deck. I sat quietly but it was not silent. Birds chirping, the wind in the trees and the low and steady hum of the interstate down past the valley were suddenly very, very loud. A hawk soared above and I marveled at how it can soar for so long without flapping his wings. Again I had to resist calling someone.
I picked up my latest library book. The ‘spiritual’ part of my retreat doesn’t begin until tomorrow morning so I didn’t think this would be cheating. By page 20 the protagonist had had two miscarriages and a stillborn. No thanks.
Now it is 1:50. My family has been gone for an hour and I have journaled more than I have in three years. Its hard. I hate writing by hand and I forgot my iPad keyboard at home so I am typing on the screen.
I am overwhelmed with what to do tonight. I have such freedom. I could walk around downtown flag and visit my favorite art gallery. I could wander through Bookmans and take my time browsing. Browsing isn’t something I can really do these days. A true luxury.
I could enjoy the ease of preparing a meal for just myself and enjoy the peace of only having to put myself to bed. I could sit at my favorite local coffee shop for hours and not worry about rushing home. I could worry about my family making it safely and sanely back to Tucson. Maybe I will do all of these things. Tomorrow I will spend time in silent meditation, in prayer. Listening. Reading. Listening. Reading. Hiking. Listening. Praying. Meditating.
I am terrified that The Spirit will go crazy speaking to me and I won’t be able to handle all He’s dishing out.
I am terrified that I will spend 48 hours in the mountains with no word from God. No nudging, no encouragement, no clarification, no peace.
I just got off the phone with Jon who is about to Phoenix and has cranky babies and a good 2.5 hours of drive time left until he is home. I have the best husband who understands and advocates for me to have a retreat of silence. So thankful to have him as a partner in life and parenting and ministry”
The next two days were an exercise in discernment as in the midst of the silence my thoughts, fears, lies, memories and dreams became louder and louder and threatened to drown out and drive away the still small voice of God that I could tell was patiently waiting underneath all of these other things.
My meals were simple.
My hike was terrifying as I had never been out by myself before and was quite certain there was either a mountain lion or a serial killer prowling about ready to attack.
My worship was just me, sitting on the floor of the cabin singing a Capella, but was ‘deep calling out to deep’
I felt God’s gentle hand sometimes nudging me forward and sometimes holding me back as I worked through memories that surprisingly surfaced and questions about my future and my identity that were quickly forming.
Being in vocational ministry has many perks, and being encouraged and supported by my husband and my supervisor to take this time was very much appreciated and needed, but I think that these are times that are needed for all God’s people. It is difficult to be monastic in this culture as we occupy roles of ministers and teachers and parents and students, but there is something about pulling away from our everyday spaces, faces, work and demands that creates moments for God to speak and heal and renew.
I intend to make this a yearly or twice yearly practice as I continue to pursue being a Spirit led disciple, leader, wife and mother.