Tag Archives: IL

Hearth in the Woods – Watercolor Sketch

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In the Midwest where chill reigns for a quarter of the year, you will find a solemn hearth if you’re lucky in the midst of the woods. Not every preserve has one, but when you happen to spot one, it’s like a treasure. This one is located at Knoch Knolls Park in Naperville, IL.

On this day, I only wish I had wood and permission to start a fire, like I did a few years ago at Heller Woods.  Click here to see photo.

Instead of seeing the warm glow against the oak trees, I will settle for the warm sounds of nagging nuthatches with their nasally, “heh, heh, heh, heh” keeping me company in those oaks.

How is their sound warm, you ask?
It keeps me there a minute longer, no matter what the temperature, and suddenly the cold disappears.

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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.

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.

My Strategic Withdrawal, CITW Part 1

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Sometimes in life you need to retreat. You need to reach over and hit the pause button so that you can regroup. Current events becoming too overwhelming? ….pause button.  Work driving you mad? ….pause button.  Feeling like you’re spinning your wheels not getting anywhere? …pause button. Family/Friends/Children acting irrational? ….pause button. Feel like you’re losing yourself? ….pause button.

When you find yourself wanting to hit pause more than play, it’s time to go on a retreat; A voluntary withdrawal.

I found such a place. A magical gem, so hidden, so secluded, Christ in the Wilderness is a place for spirit repair. God is the doctor and solitude the necessary ingredient for rehabilitation.  You do not have to be of a particular faith. There is no program. Just three tiny hermitages and open trails enticing you to take the first step towards restoration.

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This time allows for a brain adjustment. Something I desperately needed. For the next few days I am going to describe my time at Christ in the Wilderness and how it has helped me.

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I have lovingly called this place, an Introvert’s Paradise. No TVs, no internet, no cell service, no socializing. For me, it is exactly what I needed to be able to hear myself think. Living in a loud world, I tend to get lost. Or more descriptively, I tend to get lost in its current.

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So I hope you will take this journey with me….an exciting pilgrimage to clarity.

Blessings and Fears at Bullfrog Lake

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Clouds are rolling in from the northwest.
Diffused sunlight still sparkles and dances on top of Bullfrog Lake, despite all of the clouds.

It is a pleasant and cool breeze which brushes up against my skin and refreshes me. The same breeze that plays music in between the leaves on top of the trees.
And maybe still, it is the same breeze which triggers a deep contemplation…

So I ask the question… No, I actually write the question in my pocket notebook…

“What do you want me to see, Lord?”

Just then, the most menacing, gigantic thing (3 inches), which looks like it could take me out, lands on my arm and walks around. Lands on my ARM. God has humor.

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I’m scared. It’s bigger than cute fuzzy moth from the other day, really mean looking and powerful, so I have to ask, “Lord, do you want me to pass out right here?”

Then I remember a verse that has been on my mind lately…
” Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thes 5:18

Okay, I am thankful for Your creature. I don’t know what it is, I don’t know what its purpose is and that’s fine, I don’t need to have answers right now, I rest in knowing You do know every. breathing. thing’s purpose.

Funny…I am no longer scared.

It jumps off my arm, onto my sketch, and then flies away.

The breeze continues to blow. Blades of grass wiggle all around me. I am filled with glee. I take a deep breath and fill my lungs with blessings. My heart sings and I am content.

Paint and pray without ceasing,
Christine

(UPDATE: Insect is a wasp, Cicada Killer Wasp, Sphecius speciosus. Kills cicadas, not humans.)

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