This weekend I participated in the second Advent Retreat hosted by Mother and Home, an online Catholic Women’s Community. Last year following this event I had a distinctly new view on God as my Father and my perspective for life ahead in 2022. A perspective that ultimately made it to my left wrist with my first ever tattoo: Thy Will.
Throughout my life thanks to the gift of my Catholic schooling I have been attending retreats since I was a teenager. I have always loved them and one of the beauties of going throughout different seasons of life you come to learn that the retreat content can have just as much influence as how you approach the retreat. There are the standard truths that will influence it: age, vocation, current areas of interest and areas of challenge, and of course your general feelings towards group sharing. But there is also an aspect that has to do with your heart…. your soul… what your internal spirit is in need of. And most powerful… I have come to learn that often that internal seeking may not even be evident to you into you are right in the middle of the event.
For 2021 that is exactly what happened. The profound impact matched the profound need I had at that time… to feel accepted, loved, and not alone. This retreat helped me to see God and by his grace we walked very closely into 2022 and through the whole year. This year I have felt very strong and convicted in my faith. My challenges are different, but not necessarily new. Realities that have been part of my life for coming up on two years. They are not as raw… I don’t feel as desperately lost. However, there is still this wondering: what’s next? Am I where I am supposed to be? Why is this happening? And the one that got an answer this go round: Is it just me?
This sign has appeared in our family living room as part of my parents’ beautiful efforts decking the halls. They really do make Christmas feel magical and although the pain of another year: my little family is different… my traditions… my decorations… sit in storage…. I do have the gift of a place to enjoy the decor effortlessly (a gift I need to remember someday when I am back to wrestling with garlands and lights). As I have passed this over the past few days, it has caused pause over that word “Believe”. For most of my life that “belief” has been tied up in the idea of the magic of the season. Is it real? Do you believe? But in this season belief has taken on such a new meaning – it has felt defining to who I am… what I stand for… and what I will pass on. And in so many ways it’s become such a huge part of my life, it can feel like the difference between laying down to give up and to keep walking forward in life. It is part of me… but it is not the thing that necessarily solves anything. There isn’t a lot of magic necessarily…. miracles, yes… but those seem to come more wrapped in grit and grime, rather than the sparkling twinkle of “believe”. And following this weekend I realized that isn’t a curse, but the actual gift.
This year’s advent retreat I learned a very powerful, while simple message. The kind that everyone always says… that we say we remind ourselves of…. that is a universal truth: we all have pain, grief and brokenness – believing won’t take it away, but it will just make it survivable. I know it to be true… but actually walking like I believe, that has been a different story. When I mess up… when my laundry pile is big… when my work email is overrun… when my mom guilt is pouring out my eyes…. that is when I think it is just me that has done something wrong. Have I not believed well enough that XYZ is happening?? This weekend Mother and Home had some incredible bible reflections, advice, and lessons – but the most powerful? The incredible testimonies shared of the HARD these incredible believers are facing. Hard things many have not shared publicly at all. Woman after woman shared their struggle and the isolation that surrounded it. Isolation that is preyed upon to challenge that very reality: how can you still believe with this hard? And you know what…. they all still do… and it is the answer to how they keep walking.
This week this simple sign that I suppose was intended to mirror the magic of the season, instead has reminded me that in my most important community: my faith, I have been seen as strong enough to believe despite. A gift that has saved me…. that greets me each morning with a chance to start again… and with the opportunity to stand up and also say: I have faced my “this will surely never happen” along with my sisters in Christ and yes, I still believe.
Thank you so much for reading and remember to make it a great day!