snow vocation story

It's snowing here in Seattle. The neighborhood kids are having a blast outside. I'm cuddled inside where it's warm, also trying to keep a cold at bay that I can feel lurking in the wings. Snow days always bring back memories. When I was a kid growing up in the DC suburbs, we had a few whopping snow years which included many forts, snow milkshakes and every other variety of snow related activity.

But really, what the snow reminds me of is a particular snow storm in January of 2004. I was living in Portland at the time. The snow was fairly substantial--about 5 inches I think--but there was also quite a wind coming in from the Columbia River Gorge. You also need to know that the front door to my duplex was located on the side of the house, just an arms length and a half away from the side of the neighbor's house. If memory serves the snow was overnight Sunday, and I awoke on Monday morning to see the aforementioned 5 inches of snow outside my window (which looked out onto the front of the house and streets). Not a big deal. Got dressed. Pulled out my snow boots. Opened the door .... and saw snow as high as the eye could see. Somehow the winds had blown all the snow in the world into the narrow space between my duplex and the neighbors house. I couldn't really get out the front door, and as it had snowed earlier in the week my shovel was of course outside, buried under all the snow.

I did what any sensible woman would do. I peeled off my snow boots. Put on some comfy pajamas. Turned on the kettle and called my boss to tell her the unbelievable situation and that I'd be taking a few days off for a much needed vacation.

The few days turned into my first real retreat. The house was quiet with all the snow outside. I had been to the library earlier in the week and picked up some spiritual reading .. John Dear, Marcus Borg and Henri Nouwen if I recall correctly. So I just snuggled up and hung out with God.

The other part of the story is that my mother had passed away a few months before, and God and I had been in a bit of a sticky place relationship wise. I'd been pretty angry, distant, and downright grumpy as I struggled with the whole question of suffering. Somehow that week bridged the gap. I didn't figure anything out per se, but I learned to live into the questions. I developed a prayer life. A deep desire for God. And a few months later started considering the crazy possibility that maybe, just maybe, I might be called to religious life.

Today's snow will not cause me to retreat for a week. But it's always nice to pause and remember my snowy retreat week, a tremendous gift from God that keeps on giving in my life.


Not Fainthearted said...

Thanks for sharing this story. This and the post before reminds me that sometimes God chases us into retreat and sometimes we can actively move in to it.

I think I need to schedule a snow day (or three!)

blessings & peace,

Anonymous said...

You brought back memories of my own "retreat" experience. My mother was dying and I needed to get home to be with her. I had booked a flight for the next day, but could not wait. Threw my things in my car at 2 in the morning and drove all night. I got to her bedside at 4 in the afternoon. The drive by myself was a special time of really being alone with my thoughts, memories and with God. I really felt God's presence and Grace on my drive that helped me through the difficult days of watching someone you love suffer and die.