A choose—your—own—plan retreat

A friend, after reading yesterday’s blog, wanted to know about the place I was retreating. Like so many of us, she was in need of a time away for spiritual refreshment.

Although in the days before the you know what, I retreated at least annually to Our Lady of Grace Monastery, in the you know what times, we have to be more creative. In these times, we especially have an invitation to create our own retreat, alone or with spiritual partners.

Here is my recipe for a create your own retreat:

Select a place to go where you can find a quiet space and includes access to the outdoors.

You can go with a plan, or create it as you move through the day. Ideally, it includes something to read,

something to make,

a place and a way to move, preferably outside

time to be still and silent, time to rest and time to laugh. What will you eat? Where will you eat?

For this Epiphany retreat, I chose a house I’ve rented many times which is familiar, pretty, and comfortable. It includes a kiva, well-stocked kitchen, beautiful art, and a garden with tables and chairs.

Before I entered the house, I made a stop at Cid’s grocery for food essentials—good bread, local cheese, half and half, organic fruit, ice cream and locally roasted coffee from my favorite coffee place.

Mornings bring a variety of quiet activities. This retreat has included some paired devotions—my friend and I are reading aloud the Gospel of Luke and from a book of poetry written by a woman of riper years—all in front of the fire.

And then the day enfolds with an intentionality of mindful attention to soul restoration.

A retreat plan anyone can use.

A winter retreat amidst the changes and chances of this life

For more years than I can recall I’ve traveled to northern New Mexico in the winter. Living in Houston for most of my life, I ached to see the changing of the seasons. The trips to New Mexico were originally during Advent, and they were full of serious preparing for Christmas which always included music and shopping and card making.

Over time, the trips changed. They moved from the season of Advent to Epiphany, and they became less of a vacation and more of a beginning of the year retreat.

I wasn’t able to travel to New Mexico last year due to the you know what so being back in Taos at the beginning of Epiphany, I am remembering why this annual retreat is important to my spiritual rhythm.

In harmony with my less young body, the days are slower, the walks are gentler, and I spend more time gazing and pondering.

My spiritual self is feeling a little frayed right now, and this retreat is a place for me to do some spiritual mending.

The prayer that continues to cycle into my heart is from Compline, the office that always comforts my soul.

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Three Advent: Joy. With.

As I flew with Advent music playing through my earphones, watching the sun rise outside my window, it was all Joy.

I’ve spent a week in Oregon with my Bend family. I was here to celebrate my grandson’s ninth birthday and had the added gift of being able to be here to be mom for my son’s surgery to set a broken bone from a mishap on our Cancun trip.

Since my son’s surgery was the same day as his son’s big #9 birthday, I was grateful to be able to care for him while his wife did the birthday party shuffle. Once our children age out of needing mom care, it is a Joy to be able to show love by fetching and being with.

Because of wind and snow, I stayed an extra day and had the Joy of a chill day with my family. We made gingerbread cookies, watched movies, and played games as the giant snowflakes blew down. What a Joy to be with.

The hospitality they offer is filled with Joy. My older grandson surrendered his room for me and bunked with his brother. My daughter in law prepared amazing meals with deep love each night, and she even made leftovers a celebration feast. Sitting with my grandsons in their room before bed, all of us reading our books, and then having night prayers together was a gentle way to end each day with. Joy.

On this third Sunday of Advent, my church is in the air. It is Gaudete Sunday, and after a week surrounded with the love of family, it is easy to rejoice.

I am full of Joy. From being with my family and always, with God.

Advent One: Waiting

I’m in the air again. Well. Not actually yet. I’m at the airport waiting to be in the air again.

Because it’s Advent. And it’s good to slow down and wait.

This waiting was a gift to me from the airport. The jetway broke and so all sorts of reshuffling had to happen.

But here’s the thing. In the hour wait, I was able to have a coffee, talk to a friend, and look around.

Advent colors abound. Which I would have missed. If I hadn’t had to wait.