Of all the things I do with Mercy, retreat is one that is most important to me. It is a weekend of reflection and sharing, of getting to know myself and others, and a gentle reminder of why I am an Associate. This retreat was no different. I walked out feeling energized, humbled, and inspired- AND with total confidence that God is working hard in my life, and that He has been all along.
The retreat was made up of a couple different themes. We discussed Theresa of Avila and Catherine McAuley. We spent time discussing spiritual maturity, and how, as we grow and change as humans, so does our spirituality and relationship with God. We talked about the threads of our life, and how they stay with us throughout our life.
Personally, I was deeply impacted by the reflection questions we were given. Time for personal reflection is pretty standard on retreats. But I will say, that typically, when I am given quiet time on a retreat, I spend it outside, staring at the trees or the birds. Sometimes I pray, but it's rare that I actually think about the reflection questions I was given. This time was very different. I not only thought about each question, but I had so much energy flowing through every fiber of my body when reflecting that I couldn't keep up with my thoughts. I dug so deep, and truly felt God's presence right with me as I reflected and prayed- and WROTE.
Although I sometimes feel that spirituality and our relationship with God is private, I feel compelled to share with you a few of the things I wrote/took away from retreat.
- My experience with God in my life roots mostly from the love shared amongst my family. Perhaps that is my first concrete awareness of God: That God is love, and that my family loves me, and I love them. My childhood was filled with joyous, loving moments, and to this day my family remains my favorite people to be around. I feel blessed in this way, because I know that not everyone has this. But when I think of the presence of God in my childhood, I don't necessarily think of specific instances or "aha" moments. I just think of the love we shared as a family and the love that my parents have for us.
- I believe that my greatest moments with God are when He brings someone knew into my life. This started young with Christine and Amy. They were meant to be my friends. He continued to bring people that I needed- and all of these people taught me how to love in their own ways: Mrs. MacLennan. Alicia. Sam. Melinda. The Backups. Dean. Dave. Katie. Nate. Sr Mary Jo. Peggy. Tom. Emily. I could go on and on.
- God has ALWAYS been good to me, even when I am not good to myself. He protected me by surrounding me with an army. Perhaps THAT is my thread of life: love and relationships. Even if the people or faces change, the love is still there.
- I suppose I have seen myself as a light for others. Maybe not a large, overpowering spotlight- maybe more of a flashlight. I seek people out when they need someone, and I help lead them out of their darkness.
- When thinking of a symbol for myself, the first thing that comes to mind is a puzzle piece. I like to connect people- either to each other, or to new experiences. I believe we are all working together to survive this life, and I feel it's my duty to help get people where they need to go.
During my time of reflection, I mostly thought of the times God has brought good to my life: either people or opportunities. But I also thought of the times He has been there when I was closed off from Him, When my dad was so sick, I don't remember ever actually praying. I cried a lot, I yelled, but I don't remember actually talking to God. Yet, somehow, I knew He was there. Again, maybe I knew He was there because our family was shown such love and kindness that I KNEW that was God.
My point? God has been there for me in the good and the bad. He lives in me, and He lives in you. He brings us together for a purpose. This is what I believe, at least. And with that, I wrote this prayer:
Be still in the moments of joy, for that is God's work
Hold on in the moments of tragedy, for God will pull you through
You are surrounded by God's love, through the faces and hands of others.
And just as you need them, they too, need you.
We are each pieces of God's puzzle, and we must connect both in the joy and in the tragedy.
We come together as one,
With God as our light.
In closing, I will leave you with the song "Flashlight" from Pitch Perfect 2. When I first heard it, I immediately linked it to Tom as a sweet love song. But now, after this retreat, I link it to God. This version is a cover of the song from Madison Lawrence. The song is originally by Jessie J.