Thursday, September 29, 2011

Reaching for Normal

We are coming up on two weeks after the Wedding, and today was actually the very first day I got to spend at home. You can imagine the mountain of laundry that has been accumulating while I've been trying to catch up stuff away from the house...I worked extra last week, and then we had our Girl's Ministries Sponsor Retreat last weekend at a Presbyterian camp about an hour away. A bridal shower for another couple at church Sunday afternoon/evening and then bam! Back to work again.

So the laundry has been the focus of the day. And I've been mentally trying to write a blog post about the weekend. I'm not having great inspiration about how to share it; but, since sometimes the best thing to do is to just start writing, I'm gonna give it a go anyway.

I went to the retreat absolutely running on fumes. It was all I could do to get out the door. I wore my grungy track pants and t shirts and took no makeup or jewelry. On purpose. Because I wasn't even gonna try to be something I wasn't. What I WAS was dead tired. Not so much physically as spiritually and emotionally. I was almost to the point of fighting tears as I drove up the Parkway towards church Friday afternoon. It wasn't that I didn't want to go...I was just so tired. And I knew we were going to be doing some sharing and some creative fun stuff and and I didn't feel like I had anything to offer. It didn't even feel like the retreat was part of my world...I was dealing with so much stuff that it sort of felt peripheral.

I'm sure some of the 'stuff' was just the normal emotional bottoming out after any major life event, but somehow I seem to have put my foot in my mouth more than is typical for me (and unfortunately that seems to be very typical...) last week and I just felt out of sorts with, well, everyone, pretty much. My usual feelings of blundering about saying and doing the worst possible things at the worst possible moments. Feeling that the dreams of my heart were trivial to just about everyone else in my world. I really just wanted to crawl in a hole and stay there for a few days. But I knew I couldn't. And I knew I couldn't go to the retreat in wet blanket mode, either. I needed to shift gears.

At first it was just a teeth-gritting act of spirit over flesh. I WILL rejoice in the God of my salvation! I WILL...I WILL ... I WILL! But as the weekend progressed, it became less an enforced attitude and more of a going with the flow. Even feeling sort of numb in the core of my spirit, I found myself being happy on the surface. It was fun. I could connect on that level and not worry about the underneath.

But Saturday morning I had a bit of a revelation that I'm going to try and share. The camp that we went to had a 'Prayer Labyrinth.' I've heard of these, but I'd never seen one, so I was rather surprised to see the little sign for the labyrinth next to a lawn area as we pulled into the parking lot. There were some surprised/ puzzled comments from others in the van, but I remembered reading an article in the newspaper about them a few years ago that said the purpose wasn't necessarily a new-agey sort of spiritualism, but actually meant simply for contemplation. I thought I'd go take a look at it while we were there if I could, and then promptly forgot all about it.

After our morning devotions the next day, we were told to go off by ourselves for an hour or so with journals and Bibles. Most of the ladies headed out the back of the building towards the lake; I decided to go out the front door. I wasn't sure where I'd head, but once I got out the door I saw a park bench off in the lawn area to the side of the parking lot, so I headed that way. It wasn't until I got right to the edge of the lawn that I saw the sign again that said this was the way to the prayer labyrinth. I still didn't intend to walk through the labyrinth; that wasn't why I went over there. But after about a half hour or so with my journal, I thought I'd at least take a look at it. The grass was just tall enough that I couldn't really see the pavers that outlined the path. The entrance was very close to the bench, as it turned out, and rather spontaneously I went in.

I walked slowly, paying attention. What was the lesson I was supposed to learn? The path went almost straight to the center, but just before it got there it doubled back and began to twist and turn, slowly working its way to the outermost ring before turning back to the center again. The pavers were not highly visible, but I deliberately watched just in front of my feet, trying not to anticipate where the next turn would lead. Once I got to the middle, I looked around. I couldn't discern the way out. Once more, once I left the center, the path went very quickly to the most remote point and then wound its way back to almost the center before exiting.

I think it took me about half an hour to follow the path to the center and back out. And I saw that I didn't have to see where the path was going at every moment; I could trust that it would take me to the destination. Furthermore, I saw that what looked like something that went quickly to the destination didn't, and what seemed to be heading away from the goal was actually moving me toward it. Somehow, that touched that raw place in my spirit and brought peace. Nothing in my circumstances changed, but I had a very tangible reminder that I really *don't* know where I am; I have to trust God to direct my path...and that it doesn't matter how far away from the desires of my heart I seem to be, the next turn in that path may bring me right to them. It's a matter of trust.

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