Tag Archives: retreat

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.

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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.

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.

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.