I have written before about my retreats at The Quiet Place NC, Inc. It is my time to rest, connect with God, read, dream, plan, and write. My retreats are a time for me to step out of the daily tasks of life and focus in a more intentional way. Each time I come on retreat, God has something different for me. Of course I always have a plan and God always reminds me who is really in control. (Hint, it is not me.)
This weekend was no different. I came with the intention of deep worship and sermon planning for the next couple of months. And while I got some big picture planning done, God had something else in store. God needed to give me some reminders and some arrows for the future.
To understand the reminders, you need to know the back story. First, I have been coming to the quiet place for about 8 years now. Each time I do some hiking, find a place near the stream, and sit for awhile. I’ve hiked the same two trails each time I come. And while I don’t know all the nooks and crannies, I have a general idea of what to expect. Second, just before coming here, I was told some really good news about a ministry that I was previously involved with, news that was unexpected and points to the abundance of God’s goodness. Third, (in case you don’t already know), I have a big personality and over the last many years, I have been learning to lean into my strengths while not taking over the room/conversation/attention (this is still a work in progress).
This particular weekend, I had planned to do less hiking and more focused reading/writing/planning. I took the shorter trail out and quickly went off trail to sit by the edge of the stream. As I sat there quieting my soul, I noticed a stack of rocks. They were obviously a relic from many years ago, intentionally stacked for a purpose, now still standing defiantly, tucked into the shade of the woods, no longer the main attraction, now more hidden from view. After all these years, this was the first time I had ever seen this structure. God spoke to my heart, reminding me that God has been building foundations and structures for a long time, things that have been in place longer than I’ve known, things that are just now being revealed to me. God is not doing a new thing, God is simply revealing the thing that God has been doing all along. And even though the structure I saw had not been used for the original purpose for some time (it was part of a grist mill many years ago), what was built is still standing as a testament to what God has done in the past that continues to impact what is being revealed today.
I had to sit with that for a bit. And sit I did, right there by the stream, praying and dreaming and remembering.
While on retreat, I tend to keep to myself. I hike alone (always with my phone and telling the caretaker where I’m headed) and stay mostly at my cabin (guests stay in individual cabins). I eat lunch and supper at the main house, using those opportunities to enjoy conversation with the host and any other guests that may be present. This weekend, one other guest was here, a woman who lived in Texas and Namibia. She had such a gentle and calm spirit. I never know what brings another person on retreat, so I try to be reserved in my storytelling, giving space for their experience. This particular guest was curious and enjoyed my storytelling. Cecelia, the host, had already shared a bit about me and was excited for us to meet. In our mealtime conversations, I was reminded of some of the gifts I bring to the world and to my work – storytelling, energy that elicits ideas, and exuberance for forward motion. I shared a recent dream I had for bringing couples to The Quiet Place for a marriage retreat weekend. I talked about recent transitions and the personal healing and growth I’ve experienced over the last few years. God used me and who I am to spark vision in the other guest and the host. God used them to affirm in me direction and strengths and a joy in who I am and how I have been created. I needed that.
It is interesting to me how taking time to be alone reminded me once again that my gifts, my uniqueness in the world, is best when I’m in the midst of community.
I am so very grateful for the time away. It is a sacrifice and a privilege to be able to take the time out of my personal and our family schedule to come. And yet I know, I am a better wife, mother, pastor because I take these retreats. I am living into the rhythms of Jesus. I am connecting with myself and with God, which allows me to better connect with others. I am reminded of who I am and whose I am.