I doubt anyone noticed, but I’ve been majorly MIA for TWO whole months! Consistency on the blog during summer is a challenge because my routine is all over the place. Last summer I took an unintended blog hiatus for two months (although I wrote about culture shock and re-entry afterwards), and the same thing happened this summer.
Even though I only spent one week at Intermissionary Chamonix, I’ve gotta tell you about it. Partly because I participated in the very first group and I want to help other people know if it’s right for them. And partly because I LOVED it, but I almost didn’t go.
just start sweeping
Imagine a big, open porch on the side of a concrete house in Puerto Rico. It’s big enough to hang two hammocks across in one section, fill up a kiddie pool in the next, and still have plenty of space to spare! It’s walled-in, but it has open slats along the walls to let in sun, breeze, and lizards. This was the porch of my grandma’s house in Puerto Rico and it’s where I learned how to sweep.
My grandma was sweeping the huge tile floor, and I wanted to do it too. I was little; four, I think. As, I looked around for the dirt to sweep up; I thought it looked pretty good. “I don’t see any dirt; how do you see it?” –“Just keep sweeping and you’ll find the dirt,” she replied.
That was Intermissionary for me. At first glance, the lightly speckled tile floor looks spotless, but if you kept sweeping, you’d end up with a pile of dust and debris. How could you not when there was always a breeze blowing through and life being lived on that porch?
Most of the time it feels like everything is just fine. I feel stable and healthy; I’m handling the rolls and punches of life no problem. But when I start slowly and systematically sweeping, I find the dirt. I couldn’t see it, but it was there. My grandma’s been sweeping for enough decades to know there is usually something to sweep off the floor.
Here’s what it is:
I went to the retreat in Chamonix, France for a 6-day program called Intermissionary. It’s designed to carve out space for thinking, feeling, and remembering. Girl Catch Fire’s mission is “to help women encounter the God who created them, so they can discover what He created them for.” It’s focused on leaving an overseas life of service, like the one I experienced with Mercy Ships.
The fabulous Erin Kirk is the founder of Girl Catch Fire, the business under which Intermissionary exists. She is a writer, a blogger, and a passionate follower of Jesus. I trust her; I’ve experienced her guidance before. She was the shoulder I cried on when I realized that white people “screwed Africa over” and despaired that anything could be fixed. I’ve had some major breakthroughs when she was present.
The best part about Erin? She lets the Bible lead her, but she isn’t afraid to question it, dig into it, or actually believe it. That’s rare.
Here’s why I loved it:
Take away the endless YouTube videos, the to-do lists, the stack of books on my bedside table and replace it with mountains and quiet. That’s me at Intermissionary.
I’m always thinking too much. I’d rather plan, process, and ponder than simply rest. Too much pondering makes me crazy and I start doubting anything. I need a healthy combination of pondering + resting + BEING with other people on the same journey.
I found space and beautiful fellowship at Intermissionary. I was able to look back at past periods of adjustment to consider my mistakes and learn from them.
Here’s what I learned:
- Silence and solitude are really, really important. This was a lesson I started learning the past few months. When I got the same message at Intermissionary, I stopped in my tracks. I don’t think I realized how often I avoided my feelings until I forced myself to sit quietly with them.
- History repeats itself, even my personal history. After taking note of how I adjusted to the new season of Mercy Ships 3 years ago, I was able to see a few things I did horribly that made my period of adjustment longer. It would be easy to repeat those mistakes, but not anymore because I took the time to notice!
- Thinking about others actually makes me feel better! It NEVER feels like it will beforehand. One night in particular had me feeling completely consumed by my own weaknesses and issues. I really didn’t want to help with dinner that night, but I did anyway. After spending the time prepping food and setting out plates with a few other participants, I realized that my funk was gone. I was amazed but not surprised, if that makes sense.
- Cheese, chocolate and wine can facilitate near-heavenly experiences when enjoyed slowly and at frequent intervals.
There is a coming retreat in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Maybe you’re interested or know someone who might be interested. Check out the website to learn more and see what else she offers (i.e. life coaching!)