This one was a silent retreat at St. Mary's in Oxford. I will say , though, even though it was silent, there were several points of discussion. Which I very much appreciated because it allowed for connections to be made and to see other perspectives.
Since I'm not sure where to begin, I am just going to list the main points that hit home for me. I hope they resignate with you as well.
From session 1, Friday evening
God says to us "know who you are. Do not limit yourself." The Gospel call us to continue growing. God does not call us I be perfect, He calls us to be the best person that we can be.
We sometimes use the words "I'm only human" to describe something negative. Ie "yes, I gossip. I'm only human." What if we used being human in a positive light?
If we appreciated the uniqueness in ourselves, maybe we'd see each other differently.
From Session 2, Saturday morning
Who is God to us? What we think about God influences how we treat others. God is always going to be bigger than the image we give, because God is more than we can ever imagine.
At this point in the discussion, we did an excerise which challenged us to list a verb for every letter of the alphabet. We did not know why until we were done. Then, we were told to look at our verbs and see if they describe things God does.
What I and others learned is that they a fit-becAuse God does everything. Even jokes, which wAs my verb for J.
My favorite was "d". Because my verb was "dares". From there, I wrote this:
God dares me to be...
The best that I can be.
Open and willing to experiences, to love, and to listen to Him.
Trusting in His plan.
A leader in faith.
A follower of His teaching.
Grateful for what He has given me.
Honest with Him
Loving and gentle to all who surround me.
God dares me to be me, because He loves me.
Session 3, Saturday afternoon
Be awake to new experiences of God. If we aren't, we might miss Him.
Each person we meet is a face of God.
We then picked our favorite image of God. Mine is Protector. we were then challenged to reflect on if our image of God also describes ourself. Am I a protector? I think so. I hope so.
The only thing God is asking us to do is to love. He loves us more than we can ever possibly imagine.
The question was posed "when was a time you felt God's love for you?". My answer: when Ryan was born.
Session 4: Saturday evening
We are all so connected to one another. Spirituality is the art of making connections. Having another person present to our pain doubles our capacity to endure it.
Our challenge is to not leave anyone behind. We're connected to people even if we don't know them.
Those close to us are our "believing mirrors". They reflect back to us our highest potential.
Session 5: Sunday Morning
We are called to be the healing of the world, the parts of the world that we touch. Hope compels us to action.
We are called to keep looking at our world: is there anything I'm missing, are there new opportunities to help make things better? We do not need to do extraordinary things. They can be small random acts of kindness.
Gospel calls us to take each other in. Are there others we need to take in?
We receive the body of Christ to be the Body of Christ.
Thoughts in between sessions
The most incredible thing happened to me on Saturday morning. I woke up and went for a walk. Feeling a little lost and unsure of my worth, I asked my grandma to show me a sign that she was here. In that moment, I heard something next to me. I turned, and there was a deer next to me, just a few trees between us. Chills went through my spine. The deer ran away quickly and I kept walking.
I took a different turn and suddenly, two deer appeared. A male and a female. It was in an open area. They stared at me for quite some time. Tears ran down my face and I felt an overwhelming sense of calm and comfort. I snapped a picture.
Just after I took this, the female (on the far left) got much closer. She was staring at me and all I could hear in my mind was "it's okay". After about 5 minutes the deer ran off.
Later that afternoon, I went on a second walk. Now, I know some will call me crazy, but when I am walking in silence is when I am most in tune with God. I hear the things He wants to tell me. And no, it's not an actual voice. Rather, I get thoughts. And I know He puts them there.
So on this walk my thoughts were going craZy. And hear is some of what I heard
God will not always appear in big, cliche, magical ways. He is always There. I don't need to look for the big signs. He is in everyone. He is the gentle hand pushing me along the path. I don't always feel the hand, and I certainly don't see it, but it's there.
As these thoughts came I stopped for a moment and questioned God, and whether or not I was worthy. At that exact moment, a leaf flew and hit me in the face. Perhaps God wAs trying to tell me to shush.
I do struggle with these things sometimes. I wonder if it's all in my imagination. If it was just a coincidence that there were two deer outside when I was. If my thoughts are not God but that they are the things I want to hear so I make them up.
Or, are these actually God moments. God revealing himself to me.
It's an internal struggle I have. I don't think anyone can give me a concrete answer because one of the amazing things about God is we don't know what He is up to. But he's always up to something.
I walked again this morning. I told God and my grandma that they didn't have to appear to me today. That they should go embrace my mom. Have her feel that comfort that I felt. Half joking, I stopped and asked "hey wait- why do I always feel grandmas presence? Why doesn't grandpa come see me?". Immediately, I got this back
Because he is with your brother.
Makes sense to me. So I asked who was with my sister and I did not get a specific person just a reminder that there are several others watching over my family.
I know to some of you these thoughts I have sound crazy and that's okay. My chats with God would sound crazy to me to if I wasn't me.
The last thing id like to share is this: the retreat truly helped me to see the goodness in my life. The good things God does, the good people, the good that I am. It also helped me to realize that my cares and concerns will be handled.
I hope you got something out of the rambling I posted. Remember to see the goodness in yourselves and be looking for someone else to take in.