I had a terrible fall semester.
Started out all wrong. First of all, I ended the summer feeling – not rested, which scared me. I home school my kids, and I think we should at least START the year with a bang….
And before the first day of school, one of my daughters got pneumonia and another daughter broke her arm. (“She may get full motion back with lots of physical therapy,” the doctor tells me. Oh great! I’ve got plenty of time and energy for that!)
And then a couple months later, my adult daughter with disabilities had her first grand mal seizure in a public place. Ambulances. Emergency rooms. Cat scans.
Finally, the day after Thanksgiving, as I stood in line on my favorite shopping day of the year, I felt a wave sweep over me. Uh, oh. I hope I’m not coming down with something…. But I was. I had some sort of virus that lasted until after Christmas.
I look back on that holiday season as my most secular Christmas ever. I felt so depleted and I had so much to do, that I never even set up our Advent wreath. I didn’t do any of my traditional Advent readings, and I never sang “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
I thought, I’m not gonna make it. So many sighs. So many questions.
But then – I saw what I needed. Funny how that happens….
We have a Catholic retreat center in our area that welcomes individuals to make personal retreats. It’s kind of like having a small hotel room in the middle of a church. There’s a chapel, a dining room, and lots of hallways and windows with places to sit and pray. It’s surround by ninety-five acres of lovely grounds with trails and gardens.
So I made a reservation for a date after Christmas.
On the day of my planned retreat, there was a whirlwind of doubts. My house was in an after Christmas disaster. My kids were grumpy. Believe it or not, an ice storm was on the way! Warnings to stay off the roads had been issued.
“Sure you want to go today, honey?” asks my husband.
Nothing was going to stop me. Desperation. Holy Determination, I call it. I was throwing things randomly into bags. A flashlight in case I lost power. Fruit, crackers & cheese, coffee & tea – even though meals were included. A couple spiritual books, my Bible study.
As I drove away minutes before the storm was supposed to hit, I realized I had forgotten my Bible! What’s the matter with me, I scold myself! (Well, I have a Bible on my phone….)
When I walked through the doors, the receptionist met me.
“We’ve been trying to get a hold of you! With the ice storm and all, the retreat of seminarians has been canceled, and we’re all going home. Meals are called off. Are you okay with being here alone all night?”
Oh, sure. No problem. Except that I’ve only seen about a million scary movies in my day, and this would be the perfect place to be chased by zombies….
I get settled, make myself a cup of coffee, and sit in my little room. A twin bed. A sink. A little desk. A chair.
Well, God, I made it. I’m here.
So I had conversations with God. 24 hours’ worth. I walked the darkened hallways, sat in the dimmed chapel, occasionally made a cup of hot tea in the dining room, and talked to God.
I went over my entire prayer list: family members one by one, friends, future hopes, all the things that hurt…. And you know what? They didn’t come with the usual heaviness. They didn’t break me like they usually do. There was almost a Holy Distance. Like a war going on in a different continent.
I wasn’t having any visions or anything. Nothing really unusual. Just a sense of “okay-ness.” Hmm.
And I slowly figured it out. I began to see it.
It was as if God had cleared his schedule for me that day. He had prompted me to make the reservation. He sent the ice storm. The seminarians had to go. (Sorry, guys.) There was no fasting on this day of prayer; in fact, He had providentially provided the feast.
And just talking to this Listening God took a little bit of the Ouch away.
You know, I’ve often heard that God doesn’t usually give us answers to our questions – he gives us Himself. And I’ve always thought that was a cop-out. But as I look back over that terrible semester and my little get-away with God, I’m beginning to think … it might be true. And maybe- it might be enough.
“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you….” Job 42:5