Tag Archives: Christ in the Wilderness

Mr. Bad Raccoon Watercolor

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This is Mr. Bad Raccoon. Mr. Bad Raccoon liked to visit my bird feeder at Christ in the Wilderness promptly at 8pm every night. He was very hungry.

He was also very smart. His large body conquered the raccoon baffle on the feeder itself by standing on his hind feet, hugging the baffle, and inching his way to the top where he would lift the lid right off. Once on top, he would either cup his hands grabbing seed and bring it up to his face or he would place his whole head inside the feeder.

His determination created a soft spot in my heart and I stopped shewing him away. I reasoned with myself that if he went through all of that hard work, he must be rewarded. So I just watched in amazement. His is kinda cute.

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Rest Here Watercolor

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There’s something about an empty bench underneath a gorgeous, shade providing tree… I couldn’t resist.
Here you find rest. The birds sing for you. The leaves cover you from the scorch of the sun. Time slows down a tad. And your mind unclouds. Life goes on around you without your help as it should. It’s healthy to take a time out.

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That’s exactly what I did a few weekends ago at Christ in the Wilderness, a solitude retreat in Stockton, IL.

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The tiny little chapel on the property is open all day and night and perfect for solitude meditation. Every retreatant is given a bandana. If you wish to be alone in the chapel, you tie the bandana to the outside door knob and everyone respects your wishes to be alone.

When I start to feel like my wheels are coming undone and life starts to get hectic, I know it’s time for a retreat.

Return to Retreat CITW

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It is time once again.
I felt it stir within, an urgency to go back. A time to retreat.
As I grow, I am more in tune with my body and emotions. With the weight of work and family obligations I needed a time out. Silence is what I crave, giving me the ability to hear my own thoughts and process them. I get so little of it normally, so it was time to go back to Christ in the Wilderness for a solitude retreat.

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This time I stayed in the hermitage called, Mariglen. It has a fascinating view of the land and it’s a very popular spot for the birds to visit. You can read last years visit if you wish here, here, and here, when I stayed at the Paul of Tarsus hermitage.

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It may seem to some that staying at a place like this throws you into the dark ages, as there are no TV’s, cell phone service, and no WiFi. But oh, on the contrary! Being in the “dark” here contains more light than the brightest lifestyle back home, with all of its empty technology enticements.

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For the silence at CITW not only lets me hear the wing beats of birds, but I can also hear them cracking seed in their beaks. My soul craves this.

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Time on the trails gives me perspective. I ask God lots of questions and it’s quiet enough to hear some answers. Last year I pondered much on my past but this time it was more about my present and who Christ is to me.

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He is the Light, the Life, and my Hope. This is what He whispered to me in the wilderness.

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I also discovered other mysteries on the trail, like these bones most likely from a coyote. If you look close enough you can see fur, underneath the bones, closest to the grass.

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And on one of my nights I was indulged with this cloud bow. Great treasures are all around, even in the sky.

It was with a heavy heart that I had to leave, but when the time is right I will return. I know I bring home with me a little piece of this Peace, I am never truly far from it.

Clarity in the Clearing – CITW Part 3 Final

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I woke on my second day to bird chatter. At the feeder, 4 house sparrows (♂♀), 3 black capped chickadees, 1 nuthatch, 1 northern cardinal (♀),  and a tussle between 2 chipmunks below. I am excited to head out on the trails.

Before I begin, I make a conscious decision to invite the Father with me on my hike. It may sound ridiculous….I am walking on His ground, but I find the solicitation alluring.  Perhaps because of this He will speak to me? Perhaps He will reveal my purpose in this world? That’s my goal here; In the midst of solitude, to find who I am and to find my purpose.
We head out to the grainery.

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The grainery is quiet. It is a rustic shack. I enter inside, not knowing what I would find. Inside there is a cot with a simple cushion and a chair with an end table. On the end table are journals wrapped in plastic. Similar journals are also in my hermitage. They are the voices of souls from past retreats. Hundreds of them. I will not read them now, but save them for later.

I continue on the trail. It is perfect out, sun- maybe 70°F, breezy with cotton ball clouds quickly moving from the north against a crystal blue sky. Butterflies bask in the sun. I find them on chairs, on leaves, in bushes, with their wings outstretched in the sun.

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I find a seat in the shade and have lunch: salami with mustard on whole wheat, banana, iced apricot green tea. I sit up and look behind me (I don’t know what made me think to do this). There is an inch worm the size of a piece of thread, inching across the chair. He is so fragile, so delicate, but not insignificant. He makes giants stop what they are doing and take notice.

This place is bursting with wildlife. A boisterous band of blue jays compete with “clucking” from chipmunk. My lunch time entertainment.

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I reflect on my life and the decisions I’ve made. I see shortcomings and wish I could raise my children all over again. I do not see where I am going but I know where I don’t want to go. I want to live in the moment, beyond emotion, with purpose, intention, and obedience to the Father. So where is it? Where is my direction?

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I find a swing in the clearing. It has a tiny log for a footrest. I sit on the swing but kick the log aside, for my feet do not reach the ground (which is rare for my height) and I feel as if I’m a child. Back and forth I swing as I look out over distant hills. Those cotton ball clouds cast shadows here and there on the hills. The shadows keep up with the clouds and quickly race across.The sun is hot on my skin and I soak in warmth.

On the swing that doesn’t allow my feet to touch the ground, I feel a message. I’m not ready to learn my purpose. Like a child that wants to drive a car without lessons. It’s not time yet. I feel the Father figuratively pulling me a step backwards and I hear: Do you see the place you have here? Solitude, Peace, Prayer, and Contemplative thinking? Make such a place as this at home and visit Me often!

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Okay, I will. This makes sense. I am so busy in life that I have neglected my prayer time and my focus. I have let the craziness of the world, the business of day to day life, rule my emotions therefore preventing me from hearing direction.

My time at Christ in the Wilderness was too short, only 43 hours, less than two days. As per their rules, you must make the bed for the next retreatee with clean sheets provided. I find this very spiritually therapeutic. I am thinking about the next person. I am praying for them. Praying that they find the peace that they need and the One who prescribes peace. I am making the bed look perfect for them, just like it did for me. I am sad to be leaving but hopeful bringing the concept home with me.

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So the story doesn’t end here.
With a new fire in my belly, I grab two large bed sheets to create a space in my basement that has never existed. Stapling sheets for walls into the ceiling, I have created a sanctuary.

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Inside here is a place for solitude, peace, prayer, and contemplative thinking. I don’t need to be here to talk to God, He is everywhere, but I find the invitation alluring. I now purposefully make time for prayer.

I hope you have enjoyed this journey to my retreat and are able to take a part of it with you.
May God bless you.

Stormy Welcome, CITW Part 2

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Arriving on the first day, I was greeted by a gentle storm. I love storms. I love the excitement and the unknown. The mood is a little more reverent. There is a certain amount of waiting involved…watching the sky, listening, pausing. So I was beyond thrilled to encounter dark skies on my first night. God knows I love storms.

Sister Julia warmly greeted me in the parking area upon arrival. There are three hermitages at Christ in the Wilderness. They each have their own private hiking paths to traverse on to be able to gain access to the residency. Signs labeled “Private”, make others aware that they should avoid this trail. It is charming to have to walk to your place of stay. With rain drops trickling down leaves overhead, we made our way to my hermitage: Paul of Tarsus.

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Nearing the end of my private trail, seeing Paul of Tarsus put a huge smile on my face as my dream is to have a tiny house off grid. Well, it is not off grid (there’s electricity and plumbing) but it is a tiny house. Delightful.

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With a few simple instructions and handing over the key, Sister Julia was on her way back and I was on my way to solitude.

The very second I was alone, my brain went into a billion different directions at once:

  • Oh! Put the food away…not messy – neatly! Perfectly line those cans of soup!!!
  • Oh! Hide your clothes! This place looks like a mess already!
  • WAIT! No, take a picture before you wreck it!
  • Make some tea!!
  • No, WAIT! Listen to the rain!

I am amazed at how my spirit couldn’t settle down. My mind literally could not focus on one thing. Earlier in the day, I had a lot of running around to do before I could start on my trip. Many errands went wrong, I had to improvise, and it made me nervous running out of time. Perhaps that’s why I was so distraught?

But then I felt a feeling in my heart say, “Let’s just stop and sit for a bit, Christine.”

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Okay, let’s.
I am sitting on the chaise lounge of the screened-in porch, surrounded by ceiling to floor windows. What started as a few sprinkles has turned into a steady stream of rain. There is a bird feeder across from me. A male northern cardinal takes shelter under the shrub close to the feeder.

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The rain is making a beautiful song. The steady crash on the leaves makes a low chorus and the light dribble coming off the house makes a high pitched melody.

Suddenly I feel another inclination….another feeling….
Go! Go into the wilderness!! Go play in the rain!

Okay!
I put my raincoat on and race out the door. I refuse to put my hood on because the rain is warm and I do not need to impress anyone. Let the rain soak my hair. Let the rain ruin my make-up. I am free.

The sky makes a gentle groan. Not a grumble, not a rumble, but a weak groan far in the distance. The light is escaping as I find my way to a creek.

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A chair and a gigantic wooden spool makes companions to the tiny stream. The spool for a table has lichen and different color mosses growing on the top. What a magical place for an intermission. I continue on the trail and notice sitting spots in every nook and cranny.

I hear more groaning from the sky. My hair is drenched. Raindrops running down my scalp feels like the Father stroking my hair….perhaps it is.

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Around the corner of the trail, I frighten some deer which in return frightens me as I was not expecting them. Then I laugh.

Walking back to Paul of Tarsus, I feel as if I am in a fairy tail. I have the enthusiasm of a twelve year old as I jump over the narrow creek and head home. I pray:
Thank You for helping me to settle down.
Thank You for helping me to live in the moment.
Help me to hear You and obey.
Amen.