My retreat: I laughed, I cried, and somehow I ended up at the beach.
My first day of retreat started out great. It was beautiful outside and the drive to Tilikum Christian camp was wonderful. They have a cabin called “The Hiding Place” that they allow individuals and couples to reserve for personal retreats. When I got there, they said that the direct access road was too muddy to drive, so I’d have to take my stuff out of the car and hike it down the lake trail to the cabin. Turns out it wasn’t a big deal. The lake is pretty small so the walk is a short one.
I did pack way too much though. I was thinking “camping” and it was not camping at all. Sure, I brought my own water and there was no electricity, but there were many lamps, both electric and oil. There was a hide-a-bed and they provided pillows, linnens, and blankets. There was a kitchenette with all you’d need for tea or a simple meal. There was a heater in the wall that made the place cozy and a table with a small library of books and devotionals. Even a box of art supplies and puzzles!
Anyway, I had to make a few trips to get all my stuff there, plus all the things I would keep forgetting. The first time I was walking down the trail I kept thinking “I hope I’m going the right way!” There was a huge red barn and a pasture with sheep, llamas, and goats on my left as well as some medium sized trees. On my right was a beautiful lake with tall forests on the other side. Warm, buzzing, wonderful.
I heard this sweet bird’s song that started to sound kind of funny. Almost sounded like it was right above me. I looked up: it WAS right above me! An angry black bird with bright red shoulders was diving at my head! Over and over it would swoop down at me! Not wanting to make it more angry, and fearing the spectacle of me running down the lake screaming “it’s after meeeee!!!”, I kept my head down and kept moving. Every trip back and forth was like that. I laughed so hard sometimes I think it made it more angry! I’d get just past it’s territory (distance from nest, I assume) and the llamas would glare at me with distrust. I glared back. Showed them, dumb llamas. BTW – is it even physically possible NOT to yell “llama face!” at a llama when you see one? I don’t think so.
The cabin was WONDERFUL. I was so cozy and happy, if a little out of sorts. I unpacked everything, thumbed through every book, read the informational notebook they left, checked out every amenity. Twice. At that point, there was nothing left to do but go about the business of a personal retreat. So… I stared out the window for about a half hour. Finally, I heard some people coming down the path, which was right in front of the cabin. I had not adjusted the shades facing that way yet, so I quickly pulled out a book and pretended to read it. Yes, I did that. I am ashamed. HAHA! But I bet half of you have done something similar, even at my age. 🙂
That got me laughing and saying “what am I doing here?” enough so that I finally started praying and spilling my guts to God. Crying, laughing, monologuing, and even listening for a while. I’ll write more later about what I learned during this retreat. But for now, know that I had 5 to 6 solid hours of rest, prayer, praise, and time with God before things got weird. Around 9:30 I decided to make the bed, at which time I noticed rodent droppings on the mattress pad cover. Not good. Brushed them off like a good trooper and put a sheet over the cooties. At about 10:30, as I was eating dinner and reading by the oil lamp, I heard a strange noise. A very loud rat was climbing through the cabinets in the kitchenette to get at the space where dry food was stored. At that very moment, a lot of things happened: I stood up in alarm, the rat froze, I realized I had to use the outhouse, and then a series of coyote calls started outside! WHAAAAT??? At this point I started laughing again, which scared the rat away for a few minutes. Seriously, this happened.
So… I tried scaring the rat away for good. I tried moving the food to the icebox, which was enclosed but embedded in the cabinets. So it spent the next hour trying to eat through the icebox. Awesome. If I moved the food, it would just come out to find it. I tried just waiting it out. I propped chairs against the cabinet doors and got into my sleeping back with a hairbrush in my hand. You know… for protection. By the time midnight rolled around I realized it was not going to work. I could stay up all night doing nothing but listening to a loud rat, or leave. So I packed everything up, tidied up, armed myself with the giant honking flashlight Aaron insisted I bring (I love him) and did the pitch black hike to the car. Twice – due to all the stuff. The coyotes were gone (I think). I prayed and prayed and made it just fine, except for that one incident where I scared myself with the flashlight hitting the sleeping bag, screamed, and almost fell down the hill.
I came home dejected and disappointed. A little embarrassed too, but mostly disappointed. I crashed an my sweet husband took care of the kids so I could sleep in. The next day, he convinced me to go somewhere – anywhere – and try again. I thought I might go back to the cabin for the day and come home. But that didn’t sound good anymore, as beautiful as it was there. I went to J’s diner in Newberg to figure things out. I called a friend that I thought might know of a place, but she wasn’t there. I called a few of the places I almost stayed at while planning the trip. No answer. I was irritated with God and so disappointed. The old lady in the diner that was glaring at me for using the phone wasn’t helping either. I finally burst into tears. I am a silent cryer, so no big deal for the diner-goers.
I gave up! I got in the car and just started driving, and asked God to take me where He wanted me to go. I love the drive in that part of Oregon. The forest and the sun were just lightening my heart. I listened to the amazing play list Aaron made for me and prayed. I clearly felt that God was taking me away from my plans and my agenda so that He could let me in on His. Maybe He put the rat there. Probably not – sometimes a rat is just a rat. But either way, He took the messy circumstances and decided to turn it into a lesson.
Two hours later, after many mental coin tosses to pick between directions, I ended up in Lincoln City. I pulled over right as I entered the city and started consulting my iPhone to find a relatively cheap place to stay. I really had no idea where to start. Then my phone rings and it’s my dad! I had called them when I was in Newberg, trying to figure out where to go, but that’s the last they heard. Turns out, they were in Lincoln City too! RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET FROM ME! I kid you not. So I went over to see them and they helped me find a cheap-ish room that had an ocean view and a fireplace. So wonderful! Plus they treated me a salmon dinner. Thanks Dad and Mom! God or coincidence? I vote God.
I ended up at my beloved ocean, with my beloved Jesus, and my time there – finally alone with God – was really really a wonderful experience. The LORD taught me that my ideas about how to “fix” the imperfect things in my life may not be His ideas. My carefully laid plans for a retreat to meet with Him are great, but He may have better plans. The theme of my retreat has been “the path”. I sought out “The Hiding Place” at the camp, along a strange and challenging path. But God showed me a practical lesson in what it means to let go of my plans and expectations, depend on Him completely, and follow His lead.
“You are my hiding place” ~ Psalm 32:7