This past weekend I did something I have been wanting to do for a long time and I went on an Emmas retreat. SPOILER ALERT- there will be no spoilers! haha If you are curious about it then you need to go experience it for yourself. That being said though, I can share why I went and some of what I took from it.
As a child I’ll never forget my grandparents would sometimes go away for a weekend to Emmaus retreats. My mom was actually surprised to learn that you can actually only do the retreat once because it seemed as if my grandparents were doing this all the time. I am sure they were there helping and or leading the retreats. It is something I always wanted to experience but it’s always difficult to go away for a whole weekend especially after becoming a mom. Work, kid’s activities, social events etc. always got in the way.
The past couple of months leaving Mass one of the moms from Natalia’s class would approach me and invite me to the retreat. My answer of course was always- oh well December is hard and I’ll have to look at the calendar. She would always respond- it’s never going to seem like it’s the right time and you just need to commit to it and this stuck with me.
I’ve been honest that I have questioned the Catholic church a bit as an institution lately. The whole COVID situation especially as far as vaccines and masks go is very polarizing. When our leaders here at the Archdiocese of Miami initially decided the only way our kids in Catholic schools could stop wearing masks at school was by getting vaccinated I was disappointed and distraught to say the least. I still can’t wrap my head around how or why they thought this was a good idea and how they did not consider the can of worms it would open as far as discriminating and segregating unvaccinated children. Fortunately, shortly after they thankfully changed their policy and we are able to opt out of masking our kids regardless of vaccination status. Some may disagree but I felt the initial policy was cruel and would put a scarlet A in the form of a mask on unvaccinated children. this made me question what kind of leaders we have and how I could be part of an institution with leaders that would make such terrible decisions, especially for children. I know the Catholic church isn’t perfect and has done far worse but this was hitting close to home. The purpose of this post of course is not about that but I did want to give some background as to why I was questioning Catholicism as an institution.
None of this affected my beleif in God or Jesus as our savior but I have also felt a disconnect for some time. Furthermore, I have my own internal struggles and things I know I need to work on.
I looked at the calendar for the weekend of the retreat and really the only thing on it was a birthday party for one of Peter’s friends. I knew Peter (my husband) could handle taking the kids and I decided that I had no reason not to go on the retreat and that it was my time. Peter was supportive of me going but did ask if I had friends going. I told him I would tell my friends but that I’d heard it may be best to go alone. If I was meant to go with friends they’d come and if I was meant to go alone then that was God’s will for my best experience. December is hard, everyone is busy and so I went alone.
I arrived nervously on Friday expecting not to really know anyone. Fortunately there were so many familiar faces! I can’t share what goes on in the retreat- not because it’s a super secretive thing but as was explained to us, if you saw a great movie you would not spoil it for friends and family who have not seen it yet would you? I can share though that it was an emotional roller coaster, we talked, we laughed, we cried, we shared and we ate so much food!
Life is so busy and moves so fast. We do not take enough time to be with ourselves and with God. I can say that the retreat did force me to take time to reflect, to pray and to really examine the relationships in my life. After taking a weekend to do this I found that it’s important to do this to bring peace to our hearts.
I learned that God is always listening and that things will happen in his way and in his time. I realized that I need to take more time to pray, journal and express gratitude. I’ve told myself for a while that I need to wake up earlier to do this and I have not. I came back from the retreat realizing how important it is to take time for this. I usually wake up and I’m immediately dealing with the kids making sure they are fed, lunches are packed and they are ready to go to school. To be honest, even the our dog Jeter is dealt with and fed before I even have a glass of water. I realized I may have better days if I get into a routine of waking up just 30 minutes earlier and to consistently spend time with God, journal and express gratitude. You need to fill your cup before you can fill others. While I have not been consistent about it, I can provide some tools I use and plan to use in the extra 30 minutes I am going to start giving myself.
- Five Minute Journal– This is a journal that asks you to reflect on what you are grateful for every morning and on what good things happened during the day every night. It’s considered a toothbrush for the mind. The idea is that you just take 5 minutes in the morning and 5 at night to express gratitude. There is a physical version but I actually prefer the app. The app also allows you to add a photo each day and creates a gallery of the photos expressing what you are thankful for.
- Blessed is She Devotionals– I came across this from another blog, A toddler and a Topknot. If you subscribe you get a daily email that has scripture passages and then a devotional where there are some words reflecting on the passages. When I did my 30 Kinda Hard Challenge part of it was to spend 10 minutes a day on personal development and because by then I had already realized the disconnect I had with my faith, I decided to commit to doing this daily and then journaling my own thoughts and take away from it.
- Penzu– I’ve always liked to journal. I find it to be therapeutic. While some still prefer paper and pen, I prefer to type. A few years back I went on the search for an online journal and ultimately decided on Penzu. It’s a webpage where you can set a password for privacy and you can add entries. They are dated and you can name them.
While I am ashamed to admit this, I also realized that I do not spend enough time doing community service or getting involved with my parish’s outreach programs. I have my moments where I feel as if I am not enough or I do not do enough with purpose and I think my lack of involvement in things like this may be part of that. Life is busy with everything I have going on with kids, school, their extra curricular activities etc. but I know I need to find a way to prioritize this even if I start with baby steps.
Being given a weekend where I had the opportunity to reflect, spend time with God and examine relationships with God, loved ones in my life and even my relationship with myself made me realize that I have so much to be grateful for and that I have taken much of it for granted. I also felt my grandparents presence with me throughout the weekend because I know I was taking the time to do something that was near and dear to their hearts.
I also met some wonderful people! Think about it- you are guaranteed to meet amazing people when you are surrounding yourself with others who want to work on themselves and better themselves. I even ended up assigning myself a roommate because I did not want to sleep alone! She was kind enough to offer to let me crash in the other bed in her room. We would stay up until almost 1AM talking and now share a special bond as Emmaus sisters. You are also surrounded by the wonderful people who have taken time from their families and from their responsibilities to be there and help you on your spiritual journey.
I went into it thinking- ‘it’s true that it will never feel like it’s the right time’. The reality is though, in December we quickly forget that Jesus is the reason for the season. We get so caught up in Christmas shopping and holiday parties that we forget the true meaning of Christmas. What better way to spend a weekend during advent than with Jesus? There actually was no better time!
If you have any questions about it please feel free to reach out and if in your heart this is something you are considering doing, answer the call. You won’t regret it!
Thanks for visiting!