always behind… reflections on retreats

So, here it is, Tuesday of the 1st week of Advent and I am already behind by 2 posts for my own Advent challenge.  As usual, life has taken over my time, thoughts and prayer time.  But, I have to realize that Rome wasn’t built in a day and I am not going to change a 40-some year habit overnight.  So, onward and hopefully, upward.

Ever since I attended my first retreat in college, I have been hooked!  I have attended Koinonia, church sponsored and silent retreats and have given retreats as a youth minister and as a retreat director at a retreat house.  I think I have been hooked on retreats because of my personality.  I am very much a ‘in the minute’ type of person.  I do plan for the future with menu planning, lesson planning, schedule planning and couldn’t live my crazy life without them, but I work hard at being very present to what is happening around me at that particular moment.  I enjoy people and interacting with them.  My husband might think I’m weird, but I have met some really nice people in some pretty ‘unorthodox’ places — including the bathroom. 🙂  So, by living life like this, I tend to miss some pretty obvious signs that are right in front of my face since I’m not ‘looking’ for them then.  So, retreat has always been a time that I can focus on my life and to take a look at where I have been, who I have been with, and does this all match up with the deepest desires of my heart which are to know Him, love Him and serve Him with every breath I take.

When I go on retreat, I never know what God has in store for me.  Whether I am giving the retreat or participating in the retreat, I am always surprised by God’s plans for me.  I have learned over the years that my plans are not always His plans, and so I have learned to open myself to whatever He has in store for me.  And the good news is that He NEVER disappoints me!  No matter what the weather is, who the retreat director is, who else is with me on retreat, retreat is always a time of rest and re-focusing.  It is like going to the eye doctor and finding that your eyesight has worsened and you need new glasses.  By the end of the visit, walking out with these new glasses is always so refreshing!  Every thing looks so much clearer, sharper, and so much nicer!

When I go for my silent retreats every year, I used to feel guilty for falling asleep during the quiet reflection times.  But, now I realize that when we are asleep, God doesn’t have to scale the walls we tend to put in place while we are awake.  At rest, we are the most open!  I remember when I had newborns in the house and was VERY sleep deprived.  Nothing was clear and everything seemed like a mountain to climb!  Those first few nights when your little one sleeps for a longer block of time and you actually get some decent sleep are such a wonderful gift!  Once again, you feel like you might actually be able to do this impossible task of being a parent once again.  Without sleep, nothing is possible.  With sleep, everything is possible.

One year while I was on retreat, I remember talking to one of the spiritual advisors about not wanting retreat to end.  I explained that I loved retreats so much and I felt so close to God while on retreat that I didn’t want to go home.  He looked at me and asked me what I thought was different about retreat and home.  I laughed!  EVERYTHING!  I said.  Then, he just looked at me with a little grin on his face and said it is only different because I make it different.  It is my choice.

So, during this time of Advent, I choose to use this time like a retreat within my daily life.  This isn’t about leaving the chaos of my daily routines and responsibilities, but about finding God in the midst of them.  If we truly believe that we are the body of Christ, then we are surrounded by Christ every day, every minute.  Thank you all for being Christ for me!

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