Hey out there! How is everybody? Hope all y’all are doing well! Things here are busier than ever, lol. That takes some doing! Between traveling and getting ready to go to college, I have my plate pretty full! But it’s all good stuff. So, grab a glass of tea with me, and let’s find a soft, quiet spot to just sit still for a minute. I’m reflecting a bit today on the past eight or nine months and what I’ve learned.
I was so excited to be free to pursue a life-dream of ‘running’ a retreat center, a place where people could just ‘be’. A place of peace and quiet away from the normal demands of every day life, where they could relax in nature, recharge their batteries, spend time with God. A place where they could pray until they were satisfied, a place where they could read and meditate, a place where there were folks to talk to or pray with if they wished. A place where the hurting and broken could come and experience healing, a place where the frazzled could find a peace to take back to their world with them. A place where God could challenge them to a deeper walk with Him. I love the place!
What I learned? It takes lots of hard work to run a retreat center – especially from the hospitality side. Linens, furniture, cleaning, cooking, more cleaning, more cooking and more cleaning. Fire and elevator inspections. Insurance and fundraising. Publicity, volunteer procurement. There is actually very little ‘spiritual’ activity about it, if you want to look at it that way. And yet, to be called to the hospitality ministry is a true calling. I’ve worked with folks who cheerfully do laundry all week, week in and week out. I’ve worked with folks who spent the bulk of their time in the kitchen – either prepping, cooking, or cleaning up afterward. When there’s a large group, there’s a LOT of clean up!
I learned that it takes more than two or three people to make it work. There’s always something else to do – cutting grass, planting flowers and vegetables, weeding a flower bed. Grooming and replenishing the mulch on the trails. Cleaning up the inevitable graffiti. There’s an old story that tells of a city family who visited a beautiful place in the country. Beautiful fields and lawns, colorful flowers and benches beneath the shade trees. Clean barns, well-groomed livestock. The city dad commented on what a beautiful place God made! The farmer answered him. “Yep, it is pretty. But you should have seen it when God had it all to Himself!”
I came to realize that I want to lead retreats, not run the physical center. That was a new thought for me. I guess I thought the place would just run itself somehow. I’m not a gardener at any level, everything green thing I touch dies. I hate housework with a passion – it’s a chore to keep clean linens and clothing for just myself, let alone 30 other people! I pay a high school student to do the dusting and vacuuming and kitchen and baths. So what made me think I would suddenly enjoy cleaning up after somebody else? I guess you could say I got a reality check.
But it wasn’t all negative! I learned so much about people, and I’ve been able to spend some time in prayer, learning more about intercession and just being with God. I’ve been surrounded by some really wonderful folks, like St. Julie. She hates it when I call her that. But really, she gets along with everyone, always has a smile on her face and is willing to do just about anything to help someone. Or Fr. Dennis. Calm, gentle, full of the love of God and wisdom, with seemingly endless patience. Then there’s Ms. Shirline, from a few posts back. Or Mike. He will cut the grass, weedeat, change a lightbulb, fix lunch or wash dishes. He has the biggest servant’s heart! Jeff is always thinking about things to make the place prettier – footlights, irrigation systems, new plantings, new areas – like the labyrinth.
What about you? Did you ever chase a dream only to discover it wasn’t what you had envisioned? How did you handle it? I’ve done what I can do, tried to learn a little bit, and kept praying to see what God had next. It appears to be college. I’ve talked to a couple of priests, and they agree. So, off I go! Maybe you’re uncertain about what’s next. Find a pastor or priest. They can help you sift through what life is offering and help you decide where God may be calling you. Come join the adventure!