Well, I'm back from my retreat - refreshed, reinvigorated and ready to jump back into the swing of things. Hope your summer is off to a fantastic start now that it's almost half over.
"We wait with joyful expectation in hope of the world to come..."
I hear this phrase regularly at Mass. At the Benedictine Monastery where I spent my "solitary" writing retreat, I heard it every day. Joyful expectation - that's the part that calls out to me. But... how come so much of what we call expectation is in actuality dread? When we expect that our lives will go exactly according to plan - that we are owed something - we set ourselves up for disappointment. Expectation can only be joyful when coupled with hope. Hope looks forward with anticipation of good things to come without needing certainty.
When nothing is owed, all is gift.
Going on retreat I had expectations, even though I berated myself for having them and told everyone I had no agenda. I was thrilled at the prospect of no responsibilities other than waking up each morning, and keeping myself clean. I won't even have to do that if I don't want to, I told myself. With no other demands on my time, I could already imagine how many pages would get written each day! With a part-time job, various stressors in my life, and too little time for writing or personal reflection, this busy wife and mother was more than ready for a little R&R - Reading & 'Riting. No cleaning. No cooking. No interruptions.
But God likes a good joke.
He's not vindictive, or even a control freak. (He could've left out that Free Will business altogether, but no!) He knows just what's needed even when we don't. Like He knew that the mistress of the women's guest house was going to need someone capable of taking over when her heart arrhythmia started up. She had taken good care of me the first few days after all, and while she felt awful about letting people down, she knew I cared enough to want what was best for her, too. It didn't stop me from resenting just a little the change in plans, but God had it all under control. My first few days were both so productive and restful that I not only accomplished more than my usual pages per day goal, but having absorbed a little "peace" of the place, my heart was more open to stepping back into mother & hostess mode.
I admit I cried a wee bit over the writing I now wouldn't get done, the leisure lost. Self-pity has always been a thorn in my side. But I was reminded that the correct way to pluck it out is through humble service and self-sacrifice. Yes, I wish Joyce had never had to go to the hospital, that her heart was already whole and healthy as I pray it soon will be. But I've been handed a takeaway from this retreat that I would've never learned by being waited on hand & foot. I'm at a stage in my life where others' needs often supersede my own. Railing against it doesn't change things, but it does sometimes steal my joy.
So... while perhaps not wholly refreshed, but renewed in my vocation as wife and mother, I know the writing will happen in God's good time. And with joyful expectation, that's where I am right now.
Many thanks to Brother Bruno, the other monks of Mount Savior, Joyce and various lovely folk I met there for sharing their hospitality and faith. You are a part of me now.
And to the bunnies that were everywhere - Beatrix Potter revisited! - remembering them brings a huge smile to my face!