I recently celebrated my 29th year of life, for which I am profoundly grateful. How did I ring in the occasion? I went to a monastery. I’ve been told this is weird. I’ll let you judge for yourself.
I’ve spent the past 18 months doing the following: homeschooling a kindergartener while “schooling” (read that: keeping busy) a two year old, transitioning churches (which was also a job transition for my spouse), packing, moving, unpacking, and doing minor renovations (read that: watching my hard-working husband + father-in-law + friend renovate, ha!). We’ve had a lot of transition, a lot of chaos, and a lot of noise.
So when my husband asked what I wanted for my birthday, I answered “solitude.” I think that’s a perfectly normal request.
Regardless of it’s “normalcy” or lack thereof, this weekend was so abundantly, precisely what I needed right now, and I’m coming back refreshed on a really deep level. It was like stepping off a roller coaster at a noisy theme park and into a solid, still, quiet room. Glory be.
I walked into my little guest room with a lake view, closed the door, stared at the crucifix, and just breathed in the silence. Oxygen. Finally. Deep, deep breaths.
I ate. With no interruptions. No one spilled anything that I had to clean up. No one wanted more milk or suddenly needed help to go potty or was complaining about how yucky the food was that I had spent time preparing. That, in itself, was a gift.
I walked. At my own leisurely pace. I didn’t have to hustle to make drop-off or pick-up, I didn’t have to stop to tie anyone’s shoes, and I didn’t have to let a preschooler-who-will-remain-nameless get in and out and in the stroller again a thousand times. I strolled around the lake and just listened to the fountains and the birds and the wind. I strolled through the halls and just stared at all the art—which I will talk about in another post, because that, in itself, was a gift.
I slept. For AN ENTIRE NIGHT WITH NO INTERRUPTIONS. No loud crackling on an old baby monitor startling me to a panic, no small visitors for bathroom trips or second, third, & fourth tuck-ins, no noise. AT ALL. I swear I heard angels singing when I awoke—after being allowed to leisurely wake up on my own at 8 am, of course. What. a. gift.
***Ok, before I go on boring you with all the mundane things I did, I’m going to take a time-out here to explain that I completely understand I’m being over-dramatic. I have been living a very comfortable, safe, privileged life in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. My family has been healthy, and we have been blessed beyond belief. But this is a blog. I’m allowed to be over-dramatic sometimes. Roll with it.***
Ok, now that we’ve covered that…Ahem, time-in.
I would say that although my little retreat offered me some “R&R”, I don’t think it was so much a “pit-stop”, or even simply a “refueling” point. I think it was more an entire change in course.
Less like a water break and more like a change in game-plan.
Less like a 10 minute rest break and more like a realization that I’m no longer at the right pool.
It was most certainly an opportunity for rest, but it was also an opportunity to wake up.
The past three years have been mostly transitional for our family, and honestly, I could write a book full of thankful words about all the blessings, lessons, and people these years have brought me. I would never trade them in for the world. But it would be equally as honest to say that I am, well, tired. And I think that’s probably natural. But I think I had begun to fear that the weariness was a forever-sentence. A normal symptom of a normal pace of life, and that’s where I was wrong.
It’s clear I am entering a new season: one of rootedness, of settling in and being firmly established, on a physical as well as spiritual level. I have been given the incredible gift of a “home”—and I don’t just mean a house. I mean all the things that “HOME” entails: a safe haven, a permanent dwelling, an abode within which to live and from which to offer rest to others, a place within a community I love and a family (blood & spirit) who know me.
My merciful navigator has brought me to harbor, and that doesn’t mean I am out of commission, but quite the contrary. My speed, location, and position are all different now, but I still have much work to do. It’s just more of a slow-and-steady, staying, sustainable type of work than a full-speed-ahead, sprinting type of work.
My birthday of solitude was a reorienting of my perspective. Not only was I reminded that I am shifting seasons, but I was confronted with many ways I’ve been thinking and living that have done damage to my ship. I’ve brought along some unhealthy beliefs and values I need to release, and allow God to replace them with the deepest truths.
I am coming away not with a “finished” feeling, but a “just beginning” feeling. Although in many ways this is a closure to one piece of my journey, it is of course the start of another chapter. And I get to decide intentionally how I’m going to live this one.