Yesterday I was able to participate in an Advent mini-retreat with some other women from my community. It was at the (unbelievably gorgeous) home of one of the staff members from my church. There were six of us total and we were all connected by knowing either our hostess or the leader of the retreat. I was really excited to go as I haven't exactly been feeling "Advent-ish." It was easy to feel "Advent-ish" in Chicago. The weather was cold and blustery. The outside was dark and uninviting. I really did spend all of Advent waiting for the "light of the world" to appear. It's hard to get into that mindset when it's still sunny and warm enough to play outside with Joshua. Not that I'm complaining a bit! I'm thrilled! But it makes it harder to get into the Advent spirit.
So I was looking forward to a time to help me really feel like we're starting the Advent journey. Jay took the morning off from school and stayed home with Joshua so that I could go. We began the morning listening to the words of Henri Nouwen and sharing a litany from the Northumbria Community. Then we went off by ourselves (there was enough room in the house that each of us could go to a separate area and not even know that anyone else was there!) and spent an hour and a half in silence. An hour and a half of silence!!! Those were the most glorious words anyone had said to me in awhile. What would I do with an hour and a half of silence? I started with some mindful meditation, moved on to an abbreviated time of lectio divina using a passage from Isaiah, and just sat in the quiet.
To my surprise, I actually started to get a little antsy. After being home with a baby/toddler for the last five months I'm a little out of practice at sitting still and 75 minutes is a long time. I like silence much more now than I used to, however. I used to have the television on all the time, even if just for background noise. Now the television is on, at maximum, three hours a week, and those are all after Joshua is in bed. I love the quiet, I love the absence of sensory input, I have to have quiet these days to stay sane.
But I realized yesterday that the sound of silence is my background noise now. I realized at the that, more than silence, I need intentional quiet...quiet that allows me to listen to God and listen to what's going on inside of me. It's not exactly something I'm good at (and I don't like things that I'm not good at) but I need to try.
After the quiet time we had a wonderful lunch together and I got to know all of these great women a little better. One is a university administrator, one is the Director of Discipleship at my church, one is a radiologist who is now staying home to homeschool her oldest daughter, one is a spiritual director, and, to tell you the truth I'm not sure about the last woman but she's really into alternative medicine and eating for healing so that was really cool.
I was honored to be part of it and glad to remember my need for silence.