Early Friday morning, July 8th, I gave my husband an extra-long good-bye kiss, sufficient to last a couple extra days. Then, I backed out of our garage, ready to set out on a three and one-half hour drive. Rain poured from a solid gray sky, providing not much promise of clearing.
I don’t enjoy driving. Anyone who knows me well understands I’m more than happy to relinquish the wheel and leave driving to someone else—even a 16-year-old grandchild with a recently-acquired driver’s license!
And, I really don’t like driving in the rain.
Plus, I really, really don’t like driving on two-lane highways like those confronting me. As I’ve told you before, I was in a terrible head-on car crash many years ago. The accident occurred on a two-lane road. Even though I have no recollection of the actual incident, I know memories are buried somewhere deep in my subconscious because I experience a certain uneasy tension whenever traveling on similar highways.
Photo by Ron Reeve
Although this sky is a beautiful blue, the road is typical of the one I traveled on my trip to Cottonwood.
In spite of not enjoying driving in general, a special dislike for driving in the rain and the vague anticipatory stress I experience when traveling on two-lane roads, a sense of excitement filled my heart as I embarked on this drive, which was destined to deliver me to the Monastery of St. Gertrude in Cottonwood, Idaho.
I’ve wanted to do a retreat at St. Gertrude’s for a long time. I’d prepped myself beforehand, determining my three-day spiritual getaway would begin and end as my car entered and exited Hwy 95 about three miles from our house. I wanted to make the most of every moment. The drive would become part of the experience.
I tend to be a planner. I like themes, lists and agendas, but for this retreat, I’d avoided all of these. My preparation for the time away was simply this prayer: “Surprise me, God!”
Pretty new journals entice me, and I’d purchased one especially for the retreat in order to record thoughts, insights and of course, surprises. Naturally, my Bible was going. I decided to take only one other book, and asked God to help me choose the right one. The partially-read book I picked up was The Calling Journey by Tony Stoltzfus.
At the last minute, I grabbed a handful of worship CD’s for inspiration and company during the drive. After a quick look see, I popped an instrumental disc of traditional hymns into the player. Familiar strains of It is Well with My Soul were the first to come forth. Yes, my soul was well, and peace like a river attendeth my way that morning.
In spite of the rain and road construction, the drive proceeded pleasantly. Gentle, prayerful thoughts and a few bouts of deep breathing must have released the feel-good hormone, oxytocin, because even the two-lane highway didn’t seem all that troublesome.
A quick glance at the clock informed me about one hour had passed since I’d left home. At that same time, the strains of Sweet Hour of Prayer drifted from the dashboard. This seemed a first sweet reminder God had heard my prayer and was willing to “surprise me.”
When I listed the things about driving I don’t like, I didn’t mention I’m also not a lover of heights, and part of my trip was going to take me over the Lewiston grade. The Lewiston grade is a 10-mile stretch of highway climbing 2,000 vertical feet to an elevation of 2,756 feet.
A thick blanket of fog covered the apex, and while I realize I’m beginning to sound like a big ‘ol crybaby, I need to tell you, I also detest driving in foggy conditions!
That morning, though, the fog cleared quickly. Descending from the mist, a distinct impression inserted my thoughts. It was pleasant, and I asked, “Lord, is this from you or is it merely my imagination?”
I wouldn’t get the answer for another 24 hours, but that thought became the theme for my personal retreat weekend getaway and was one of the nicest divine surprises I’ve ever experienced.
I’m not going to share my retreat theme with you because it’s something I need to tuck away in my heart and ponder. Like choosing the theme for a party or special event, that’s only the beginning. A lot of planning, abundant amounts of list writing, and considerable work go into making the theme successful.
In my next post, I would like to share a couple more surprises I experienced on my three-day individual retreat to the beautiful monastery, located in Central Idaho atop a rolling hill on the Camas Prairie. (For more information about the Monastery of St. Gertrude, visit https://www.stgertrudes.org/)
Until then, I’m asking God to surprise you today with a generous dose of Divine goodness!
Listening on YOUR Journey……
- If you decided to take a personal retreat, what do you imagine the theme of your spiritual getaway might be?
Beautiful sites like this one Ron captured recently—rolling fields of ripening wheat and brilliant yellow Rapeseed (from which Canola Oil is produced)—are common on the drive to the Monastery of St. Gertrude.