When my friend Vicky sent an email wondering if it was time to head back to Carmel of Mary Monastery — a place near Wahpteon, N.D., where we’ve been journeying to together since the fall of 2012, just before I’d discovered this heavenly haven on assignment — I paused.
The thought of Carmel can never be ill-timed, but these escapes must be measured. May, the month that has mothers jumping every which way, seemed out of the question; this year especially, since we add the graduation events of our senior girl to the rest of the year-end frazzle.
But I wanted to be open to it. Vicky had never taken the lead on Carmel that I could recall. So I decided that if the opening presented itself, I’d jump. And when I learned it had, I couldn’t help but wonder if God knew something I did not about what was coming around the bend.
And by the time the weekend rolled around, even though it was true that there were graduation events and other possible engagements tugging, I had to trust the Holy Spirit’s prompting. True, Vicky had set it all in motion this time, but God knew…
He knew well before it happened that we’d be in the midst of a family crisis in mid-May, and that then would be the very time I’d be desperate to catch my breath.
Just a few days before departing, I posted on Facebook: “A mind unruffled, like a lake undisturbed, can more perfectly reflect the glory of God.” – Rick Hamlin
Vicky clicked “like,” and proclaimed I must have read her mind. Indeed, it was time to unruffle, and on Saturday evening, after she hugged her birthday boy, and after I attended several of those earlier grad parties, we flew to Carmel (by car) like sisters returning home after an extended departure.
It’s become so usual to both of us now that we anticipate it through our bones well before we spot the bell steeple.
I’d no sooner turned onto the gravel road leading to the monastery when the first breath in, then slowly out, came; the exhaled sigh. Spotting the paved path leading to the grounds — in that familiar bend in the road, by that familiar grove of trees — the second exhale happened, long and deep.
And there she was, bounteous and beautiful, as always.
And as always, beckoning, and offering herself to us…
After unpacking, we sat for a while on the couch in the front room of the guest house.
The question arose. “Should we go to evening prayer?”
“I leave it up to you,” I said to Vicky.
“Okay, well, I think, since we can, we should,” she said.
And so we did.
From there commenced our short, but deeply-needed weekend with the Sisters; religious nuns who have poured prayers into our souls for years now, as well as their love in so many forms.
Our time there, as in past visits, renewed and restored.
Morning proved to be my richest time of communion this visit.
But night did not disappoint.
Spring at Carmel gave me just what I needed to move through what’s next. Nature heals. God’s breath brings new life. The still, beautiful world revives the weary soul.
Since our stay coincided with Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, Mother surprised us one day at lunch — or what the Sisters call dinner (noon meal) — with a piece of cake, all lit with a birthday candle! Though we couldn’t see her prepare or present it from behind the “turn,” her smile came through her special touch, directed at our tired, questioning souls — a sparkle of cheer and hope.
But the main message I heard whispered in that sacred space is the same one that has been traveling with me all year, yet has proven elusive, easily slipping away when I’m the least bit distracted: Trust.
It was even written on the holy door of the Extraordinary Year of Jubilee in white ribbon. “Jesus I Trust in You.”
I am trying. I really am. With Carmel in my heart, I think I can do it.
Q4U: Where have you gone lately, or where will you go soon, to get unruffled?