I realize that I have not written anything since Mom passed away.
I haven’t really felt like writing, to be honest. I’ve taken lots of pictures, which is another way I process life, but I have not written. I began this blog to process Mom’s decent into Dementia. It was a way to think out loud and to connect.
So now there will have to be a shift.
I still feel funny having a “blog”. There is so much noise, so many voices out there…and many with far deeper and more coherent thoughts than mine…but, maybe there is a place for a small rain. (I’ll have to revisit the meaning of the name since next week will mark ten years since I began this!
So what now?
How about starting with silence?
It has been nearly as many years since I took a silent retreat as since I began the blog! I headed up this past weekend to The Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. I think this is the fourth time I have been, and every time I am astonished by the peace in this place.
There were about thirty of us this weekend, in addition to the monks. The amazing thing is I never felt crowded or rushed. We ate in silence, we made our way through the hallways and the grounds in silence. We smiled and we waved, and we connected in simple ways…but we were all free to simply listen to God and to have space to breathe.
I took naps and I read too late. I watched the sunrise and the sunset.
I took lots of pictures. And I walked a lot. The Abbey has 1500 acres of trails, and on the trails is a spot with statues. There is a little spot where you come across the disciples sleeping and Jesus weeping. Gethsemani.
I love the fact that there is a bench just before the entrance to the statues.
I needed a moment to prepare. Not because I want to worship statues. Not because it is some magic moment.
I needed a moment to pause. In this beautiful place to prepare myself for a moment of realization of Jesus. The reality of Jesus. The reality of the disciples. The reality of our faith.
Sometimes, I think, we need a moment to remember the absolute holiness, and the the absolute reality of our faith. And sometimes, I need a little help because I am distracted and my head is filled with noise.
As I walked toward the sleeping disciples I was so aware that these men knew Jesus so well…and fell asleep. And how I would probably have been right there with them.
And just in the distance…
Jesus weeping. Jesus praying. Jesus preparing. Just, Jesus.
To walk in and be struck by Jesus. I love the fact that his hands are covering his face…we don’t have to picture him in detail. It’s just a presence and a statue to make us stop and take a moment.
Take a moment to pause and to remember and to pay attention.
The statues are an intricate part of the Abbey and of the retreat, but for me they only command a moment. I always make a trek out there, but only once. It is a centering, and the rest of the time is opened to no schedule, to quiet and to peace.
I need the shock of seeing Jesus in the woods weeping, even though I know he is there and I’ll come upon him just as I enter those woods. I need the centering of that…and then I need the peace of the Abbey.
All surrender of life,all denial of pleasure, all darkness, all austerity, all desolation has for its real aim this separation of something so that it may be poignantly and perfectly enjoyed. I feel grateful for the slight sprain which has introduced this mysterious and fascinating division between one of my feet and the other. The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost. In one of my feet I can feel how strong and splendid a foot is; in the other I can realize how very much otherwise it might have been. The moral of the thing is wholly exhilarating. This world and all our powers in it are far more awful and beautiful than even we know until some accident reminds us. If you wish to perceive that limitless felicity, limit yourself if only for a moment. If you wish to realize how fearfully and wonderfully God’s image is made, stand on one leg. If you want to realize the splendid vision of all things-wink the other eye.G.K. Chesterton – The Advantage of Having One Leg
The exercise of stepping away from life for a weekend, into a place of silence, not only helped me center and to breathe…it helped me to long for the noise and the chaos of my house. The silence was wonderful, but the silence reminded me of the laughter and the chatter in my house.
And made me long to be home, even after just a few hours.
I thought of Mom a lot. I think just having the space allowed for that. I realized how much I miss her, and how long it has been that we held back that missing. I’ll write more about that, but I need to think it through more.
One other thing that really struck this weekend, though, was the need for holy spaces in our lives.
It is wonderful that our churches are more approachable than probably any time. It’s great that our buildings are full of activity and a multitude of uses.
But, there is something to be said for a space that is only intended to be used to worship God.
There is a peace in this place that is different, and a reverence. You do not rush in chattering. The smell of incense lingers in the building.
There is a hush and a waiting when you enter and wait for the monks to come and sing their prayers. Even at 3 in the morning.
This is a place of awe and of reverence. This is a place of quiet, and in a world of so much noise (and even just in my own mind so cluttered), the space was healing. I love that it is open always and I could walk in and pray at any time. I love that the monks are praying at the 3 in the morning and the sound is sweet and pure in a place that holds so much silence.
So…I’m recharged from a weekend in a holy place. I’m curious to see what comes of this blog and what might be sparked for me to write. I’m thankful for a weekend pausing the normal and reminding me of all that is good and holy and needed. And reminding me how good and holy my life is back home as well.
Oh. And one other thing I learned this weekend. The monks prepare all the food…and it was simple but good fare. Except. The monks do not know how to make egg rolls.
They do, however, know how to make butterscotch pudding.