LSS: Retreat and recharge.

Months ago, an acquaintance asked if I would facilitate a writing workshop at a women’s spirituality and creativity retreat.
I said I would, the way you agree to things so far in the future they seem they’ll never happen. I had no idea what a spirituality and creativity retreat was, but it sounded nice.
As the weekend approached, life – as it almost always is — was so full of so much, I still didn’t give the retreat much thought. I was planning to facilitate a workshop I had led hundreds of times. It didn’t require much preparation.
Then I started getting e-mails from event organizers suggesting tactics to use to prepare for the four-day retreat. The e-mails even said the organizers were praying for me by name — and that always gets me. They suggested using the drive to the remote, rural location as quiet, reflective time to detox from the stress of everyday life.
So, last week as I charged past Hammond on the way to the retreat, I tried to follow the orders I had been given. I used the time to be quiet and to reflect. I realized that I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I like leaps of faith.
Turns out, the spirituality part of the retreat came in small, manageable doses, which generally has a greater effect for me than bigger, more difficult-to-swallow treatments. For me, the creativity part of the weekend was powerful. Over the years, the organizers have collected massive quantities of art supplies – with cigar boxes and plastic tubs full of beautiful buttons, beads, old stamps, oil pastels and scraps of dazzling fabrics. It looked like all the stuff loads of women bought and collected through the years for fun projects – which, of course, they never had time to do. It was a crafters’ heaven open 24 hours a day.
The retreat suggested making prayer beads, but they also encouraged participants to create their own art. Surrounded by piles upon piles of the coolest array of art supplies with the simple instructions, “Make something,” was magical.
No one pulled at you or asked what was for dinner. In fact, no one asked me anything. I was able to sit there and try my hand at making something beautiful.
In doing so, I found myself reflecting on life’s weightier questions (including some of the spiritual nourishment the retreat was offering). You know, the kind of thoughts that often get lost in the white-flag-waving-we’re-out-of-milk-practice-starts-in-20-minutes-have-you-finished-your-homework-we-need-gas-world we operate in on a daily basis?
The longer I focused on stringing beads or creating watercolors, the clearer my head became. The simplicity and joy of conversation that takes place as women sit and work with their hands was nourishing in and of itself. The experience was kind of like a summer camp for wives and mothers, complete with requisite hugs, tears, address exchanges and promises-to-stay-in-touch following closing services.
In the closing service, we each had the opportunity to participate in the homily by filling in two blanks, inspired by one of the writing exercises we had done: God is ___________. I am _______.
Per normal, I didn’t prepare in advance and sat there trying to figure out how I could honestly fill in those two blanks. I grew up in a faith that left little room for questions. My adult perspective on God and spirituality doesn’t jive with the rock solid answers I had when I was younger.
Suddenly, my answer came to me for the first blank.
God is a mystery.
How could I answer the second blank? What am I?
After a few minutes, my answer came for that blank as well. My answer made me happy and gave me a peace that I had missed for a long time regarding my spiritual life. When it came my turn, I said:
God is a mystery.
And, I am a mystery-lover.

The weekend was the perfect surrender to the importance of taking time to step back from the rat race and recharge. Guaranteed that I’m a better, more appreciative mother and wife this week than I was last for having had the opportunity to retreat.

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