For all of my espousing my innate need to plan (see Quirky Things About Me #7) sometimes all of my planning works out about as well as asking a toddler to make dinner would. (read: not well)
Well, it wasn’t what I expected on all fronts. Like, first of all, it wasn’t a convent. The place I was supposed to go is a convent, but that’s not where I ended up. The lady I spoke to on the phone the week before said the weekend and the next week were open- just to email her and let her know when I was coming. I did. And then I worked all day Saturday and didn’t check my email until late that night. I got an email from an apologetic lady saying that apparently she hadn’t been clear and I had to either come for the whole weekend or during the week only. So much for my plan to go Sunday morning and get back in time for work Tuesday afternoon.
I contemplated putting the trip off until the next weekend since I wouldn’t be working. But it made my insides ache. I knew in my heart I needed to go away sooner than the next weekend. So I started looking for some place to go- anywhere. If hotels didn’t have TVs I would’ve just gone to a hotel. After some searching I found a cabin I could rent for a minimal fee.
Done and done. I packed up my juicer and some camping clothes and sheets and my sleeping bag and took Cohen to my parents’ and headed out. On the drive down I attempted to make a call to my sweet friend Tiff and when my phone cut out for the fourth time and then refused to charge on the car charger (I didn’t pack the wall one) I thought maybe God was trying to tell me something. You know, like ‘hey I thought you were going for silence’. Point taken.
So I drove the rest of the way without talking (even to myself) and instead just listening to this really amazing album. I sang, I listened, I felt moved. I even started to feel excited again about the idea of quiet (no offense, Tiff *grin*)
I arrived at the cabin and got the key. It was pretty humble. One set of bunk beds, one larger bed- (all horrid mattresses that were blue and seemed more like gym mats than mattresses, not that it really mattered)- one little table and a chair. I made the bed and set up the juicer (easier than bringing food) and laid out my Bible and a couple of pens and such. Then I took this photo just for all of you in case I couldn’t adequately describe its humbleness…
I think it honestly took me until dark just to stop of all of the random thoughts and internal distractions from taking over my mind. A few times I went out to the car and turned it on just to see what time it was. I quit doing that when I realized every time I looked not even an hour had passed. I felt lonely and bored and a little anxious, to be honest. I know it was the Enemy. If he can make me worry about bills and Cohen and everything that could happen (I could seriously have written those Worst Case Scenario books!- my contribution would’ve been coming up with the worst scenario, naturally), I will never be able to hear anything.
It was a fight. I fought it for awhile and then I fell asleep. When I woke up I felt like I had slept for hours, but refused to turn the car off and see if that was true. It had gotten cold so I turned on the very tiny (think: 6″x6″ actual heating space) and even put it under the covers for a few minutes even though the label clearly read “DO NOT COVER”. I did that whole scene where you put your feet on it because they are cold and then it nearly burns them off and then you move them away a few inches only to discover its freezing cold a few inches away and so on and so forth. I read the Bible… a little here, flip to there and read a little. I tried to journal. I am a crappy journaler (quirky thing about me #3) so then I started to pray. I prayed and then I slept and then I prayed and things came to mind that I wasn’t expecting and then I’d fall back to sleep and dream weird things and wake up and start over.
I can’t explain it better than to say I felt like a was in an alternate world; a dream world.
I did sleep a lot. And I did feel guilty about it at first, but then I had to give myself some grace. After all, I have been living alone with a teething toddler as of late.
Ultimately I had wanted time away to be with God and I really had thought in my heart of hearts that God was going to speak (maybe even audibly, I hadn’t ruled it out) and tell me the next step in regard to my marriage. I was waiting for it. At some point the next day, I started just flat out asking Him what I am supposed to do. It was like a scene from a play when someone is shouting at the sky and instead of a booming voice, the only sound is the hollowness of the tweeting of birds against the silence.
Wasn’t expecting that. Got myself all good and calmed down until my head was practically empty instead of swirling with a million thoughts… and nothing. Well, nothing except for these few seemingly unrelated thoughts. And they sort of annoyed me because, well, God I am not here to talk about my marriage. Didn’t He get the memo? I only have a few precious days to get away and think things through. How dare He talk to me about… well, me.
So, because confession is good for the soul, I am going to tell you what things God wanted to talk to me about.
The first thing God brought to mind came by way of the old journal I had brought. I told you I don’t journal right? That I start a new one every time I decide to try again and the abandon it after an entry or two? Well guess which abandoned journal I happened to take with me? Oh, you know, just the one I wrote it four weeks before I got married.
Yep. Sneaky of Him, huh?
I read the three entries and felt like a stranger to myself as I read the words I had written. I was on the road with Beth, feeling completely unprepared to get married… feeling disconnected from friends, life, God… feeling like a bit of a disappointment in some areas of my unreadiness… struggling with a little depression from the sound of it…
Hmm…I had forgotten that.
Conveniently forgotten that.
You see, sometimes I remember things like this: I was this amazingly strong and well prepared woman of God who entered marriage with the perfect motives and heart and prayerfully made every move…. and then he did this and he did that and the next thing you know, I am suddenly battling depression and isolation and insecurity.
Hmmm… guess its more like this: I was human and prone to sins of pride before marriage and three years later I haven’t changed in the ways I had hoped.
Second thing God brought up: Cohen. Now I post cute photos and stories here and I do love my son, but I would be remiss to lead any of you to think I should be up for Mom of the Year. Being a single parent is hard and on more than one occasion I have had a close understanding of why people shake their babies. Going through a separation and dealing with the irritability of depression aren’t great prerequisites for motherhood. You see, some people get the good ole fashioned crying-all-day-kind of depression. I have had more the I-will-bite-your-head-off-if-you-cross-me type. And Cohen has gotten caught in the cross hairs more than once. God brought to mind a particular time days before I left when Co had gotten into my bedroom for the third time in a row and I grabbed him hard and made this exasperated sound you’d think had come from a tantruming toddler (or a charging bull) instead of the Mommy. It hurt to think of the way he had backed up from me. I must’ve looked scary to him. I started to think of all of the times I have felt overwhelmed by him and frustrated and burnt out…all of the times he’s probably felt it. The Enemy tried to come in and accuse me and I saw it for what it was. (Luckily) So I repented and asked God to fill in the gaps and cover over the wounds I have no doubt already given my baby.
Then God brought up my sister Beth’s wedding. I think I might’ve physically winced at that one. Not because it was the worst thing I need to repent of, but because it was the one I already recognized. I love my sister DEARLY. She’s my hero and my friend and one of the people I am closest to in the whole world. She helped me put on my panty hose at my wedding and plucked my eyebrows and did my make up and squeezed me tight and was present for me in every moment of my day. I loved her for it and looked forward to the day I could fawn over her the way she had fawned over me. I imagined the toasts and speeches I would work on to bless her socks off and make her cry.
And then when her wedding came six months after our brother’s and eight months after I had started wondering if my marriage was over, and if this would be the year my siblings got married and I got divorced. I was totally preoccupied at her wedding. She was nervous and I although I noticed and cared, I couldn’t break through my own awkwardness to be there for her like I wanted. My dress was the wrong color and I couldn’t get over it and spent a good portion of the day obsessing about standing out and the fact that I looked ‘fat’ in the dress. I worried about Shawn being there and wondered if the Nashville people knew we were separated. I clumsily made my though the toast, thinking non stop about my own reception that had taken place in the same hall 3 years before. As soon as they day was over and she was whisked away in their car, I felt like I wanted to puke. I love her and yet I couldn’t get past all of the ME and US issues on one of the most important days of her life. Its haunted me…. the selfishness and the pride… I have wanted to hide from them.
Luckily, she’s as wonderful as you might imagine and when I finally called her to confess and apologize, she forgave me and loved me and made it feel much smaller than I think it was.
So I tell you all of that because its good for me to have to be that brutally honest and its good for all of you to know that even though I work with the poor and love Jesus, I am very very, VERY human. I think I might need another VERY in there, but I think you get the point.
So I came back from my silent retreat somewhat confused and maybe a little disappointed. I got good sleep and God pointed out some serious issues in my heart I needed to confess, but He either didn’t get or wasn’t interested in the memo about how this trip was about my marriage.
I figured it had to be one of a few things:
a.) something isn’t ok between God and I or He’d have talked to me
b.) I am a crappy listener
c.) I slept when I should’ve been listening or concentrating (see option ‘b’)
d.) God doesn’t have anything to say about my marriage
e.) God had something more important to talk to me about.
After several conversations with my most trusted friends and family and two of my favorite pastors, I have decided to go with answer ‘e’ and maybe ‘a’ too if I take just the first half…and then I’d have to add in a new option “f.) I was asking the wrong question” because it was a little of that too.
Pastor Ricks talked to me today and said some things that really smacked me between the eyes. He said, “its like you are trying to take a trip to Kentucky on a quarter tank of gas, Kate. You’ve got to fill up before you take the journey or you’ll end up on the side of the road” I wanted to tell him I think I’ve done that a time or two (figuratively) but didn’t interrupt him. He’s the one that suggested perhaps I keep asking the wrong question, “God what I am supposed to do about my marriage?!?!?” when in reality I can’t do anything about my marriage until I get filled up. I am just not prepared for the journey yet. I am a few steps (maybe more) ahead of myself. That sounds like me (quirky thing #7 again)
So the question of how to interpret the silence now feels answered. I don’t think God was silent as much as He wasn’t willing to indulge my need for planning for a journey I am not ready yet to embark on.
The preparation I need is becoming clearer. Pastor has a book for me I am picking up tomorrow and he asked me to “make myself available for inconvenient service” at the church. Okaay…. He said its time to put worries and concerns and plans and even counseling about our marriage on the back burner in order to make more time (the appropriate time) freed up for running hard after God. Get involved, he reminded. Don’t just come to church, get involved. Guilty as charged there. This is not the first time I have heard that this week… one of my dearest, most trusted friends Sarah told me that God had given her the word “community” as she interceded on my behalf with her husband.
So that’s where I am at, friends. To all those who’ve asked if I recommend the silence… I do. Just be ready for the fight!