Ignatian Retreat Week For Everyday Life Weeks 1 & 2

I love these exercises! I realize how important the "Life Experiences" section of SHAPE is, and how I have not been able to do it in TOAG over the last few years due to time. Reviewing this has been so good. I remembered more and more things from my early years this time around. 

These are a few random things from the direction for Week 1:

Let this be the image: This week, let’s go through the photo album of our life. Let’s go back to our earliest memories. Let’s let the Lord show us our lives. What pictures are there? With each part of my life, what scenes do I remember? Who is in those scenes? Some photos will be of happy times, some will be quite sad, others will be difficult to recollect at all. They all constitute our story and the journey that has brought us to where we begin this retreat.
Take it easy. Go slowly. Take a little bit each day. Being faithful to this exercise will help tremendously to prepare for the weeks ahead. Write down notes or memories or stories if you’d like.

Here are the questions for Week 2 which synthesizes Week 1 memories:

What graces, insights, special or painful memories were given to me last week?

I had so many. I have them written on my timeline that I had made up, not sure when. I know I had my Women Becoming class do timelines in 2006, but I think I did mine before that for my own personal use a couple of years before that, no I think it was when I read The Making of a Leader even earlier than that, maybe even in the 90's? But I think I did a paper timeline when I got the Timeline Creator for homeschool. I redid it again when I led the class because I have two copies in my notebook.

But no matter. I am gaining such insight doing this again. Originally, I did not look at my timeline, and spent six days thinking through my life, at least through my mid-twenties. Then I took the time line out because I didn't want to reinvent the wheel. There were new painful and good memories that God reminded me of though through those walking and reflection times, especially from my early childhood on Maryland/Nevada Street.

I won't go into all the details here, but some were painful! But then He spoke such sweet words into those painful things that I share below.

I also added happy memories of days at Lake Mohave and Lake Millerton. Most of my very happy memories of childhood are all connected to when my dad was there. He brought out the best in my mom. Also, my early memories of my mom are very good, but I don't have any memory of her comforting me and holding me, even when I was hit by a car! (The person who hit me did that while my mom just stood there.) I know she did all the physical things required of a mom, but I don't remember snuggling or having her read me a book. Isn't that weird? I just remember her being very busy working at home. She was a very hard worker. She was always very nervous and stressed and insecure. That is what I remember. I remember her feeling very bad when she poured hot milk in my lap accidentally.

I also remember the sweet memory of my mom and dad praying the Lord's prayer at night and saying my prayers with my mom and me asking to know "who this Lord guy was."

Did I like doing these exercises last week, and did they nurture some new desires in me?

The first day was surprisingly hard for me. I have gone through memories before, but I realize from my time-line that there were very few things written in my early years before elementary school and in elementary school. So, God filled in those blanks, and I remember walking up to hospital hill thinking, "Do I really want to do this?" The first day was hard looking at those early years with my mom especially, but the second day God gave me great freedom saying:

I have set you apart. You drew close to Me. I let you see far beyond your years the emptiness without Me. I am your Father, mother, brother, friend, protector. EMBRACE. I do not blame you for the car accident (somehow my mom's car accident was my fault growing up, and I never understood that). I am the Sears Shoe Salesman who floods the store with light and bids you walk across the isle  from your mom's disapproving stare towards Me. Their journeys are all theirs, and I have dealt with them as I have seen fit. They are mind. You are set apart for my purpose. I moved you away from your family to find health. White limousine Kingdom town car moving in the other direction . . . to the mountain of My glory. Get in and enjoy the ride, Carol. I will take it from here.  Grab a drink and enjoy the scenery.
I do have such happy memories of water skiing and singing to the sound of the boat motor. Traveling in the car or camper and enjoying time with Chris. He was not always very nice to me, but he was on those road trips. I loved fun in the sun and quiet evening by the lake with the moon on the water singing songs. 

I nurtured in me a new desire to seek God first. He is the only one who will be there. I have this thing for approval when I am new situations, and this new situation has me wanting to fit in again. I have a new desire to please my AUDIENCE OF ONE. 

After last week’s review of my photo album, I’m attracted to . . 

I am not sure what this means. I emailed them to understand this question.

I am attracted to water skiing and water. :) I am also attracted to people like my dad, positive and affirming and FUN(NY) at every turn, yet FIRM. He really didn't let me get away with much either.  I think that is why I am attracted to God because my concept is so shaped by BIG CHUCK WARDROP. I don't think my dad gave a rip about what people though of him, and I think everyone liked him immensely because he was just himself. He led the pack. I want to be like that. 

WOW! I emailed them my question and before I even finished this blog post he answered. Here is what he said:

I think the question was an open ended one to invite reflection on what most attracted us in our review of our life story.  Ignatius liked “reviews” because of their potential to take us deeper.

So, for example, one might say something like, “I am attracted to reflecting more on how I realized God was present to me, and with me, in those periods when I was not very conscious of his presence.”  Or, one might say, “I’m attracted to spending more time with the young adult period of my life, where I feel I changed the most and my personality developed the most, and perhaps where the habits I have in my life began to be formed.”  Or, one might reflect, “After reviewing my life story, I feel drawn to give thanks much more often and to realize how our Lord is with me today, in the everyday experience of my life now.” Andrew Alexander, S.J.

With that in mind, after reviewing my life story, I realize how much God has been there with me at the crossroads. His presence was so real to me to make take the right path! "He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake" (Psalm 23:3)! He truly has been my SHEPHERD through all of this. I am so grateful! It does not matter that it has meant not being included or even shunned. I will not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the path of the sinner or sit in the seat of the scoffer! His way is the path of righteousness to honor His name. He is the good and right way! My delight will be in the law of the Lord, and on His law I will meditate day and night. I want to be that tree, firmly planted by streams of water (Nancy's vision for my life), yielding FRUIT in season and not withered leaves on this girl. This path has led to nothing but prosperity and peace (Psalm 1). Again, you have shown me where the other path has led, and it was not worth it to take it just to feel included with my family, with some of my high school friends (although most have now found you), with some of my college friends, it is all chaff in the end. I could go on and on, but I will stop because this has taken me 3 1/2 hours to process. BUT such good processing!!!!!

Where, in my life story, did I feel most totally known by God?

The evening before my dad's death. God saying later that He wanted to be more of a Father to me. 

Is there a part of me, my story, I have a hard time imagining God knowing? Because I have a hard time imagining God accepting me there? 

No, I feel like He has been with me through every step. It is whether I want to embrace Him in those painful moments, but most of them, through Listening/Healing prayer, I have. 

Where in my story were there crossroads? It could have gone this way or that: how was God present in the way my story continued from there? 

Absolutely! I had a choice in that hotel in Stanford in March of 1979. I chose GOD and not PLEASING PEOPLE! YAY! (So interesting that I will be with people I knew from that time today.) 

But sometimes choosing God meant being shunned and excluded. That is always my bugaboo! I don't like being shunned and excluded. But the alternative would set me at odds with God. And He has been the better choice. Always with me. 

But being shunned and excluded by some meant being embraced by others. Leaving Athletes in Ministry Bible Studies and those dysfunctional relationships to be in the Navigators and Debbie Brizee! WIN all the way around. She has been such a faithful friend; faithful to God and to me! 

I had a choice in living a life of materialism and emptiness (California Family) versus non-materialism and fullness (Corvallis/PNW/World Family). (Looking at the grape vineyards across from my parents' house and making a choice in 1988.)

I had a choice of continuing to be around people of compromise and lack of integrity on that road trip up I-5 when B stiffed the guy at the Canyonville gas station who didn't double the gas price because gas had gone over a dollar a gallon when the digits in the gas pump did not go to three. I begged God when the water came over the car in the early am (not sure if it was that trip or another one), and I almost lost control. I decided to give my WHOLE LIFE to You and get away from the bad influences on my life. B was nothing but BAD NEWS for my life! BAD NEWS! The whole debacle traveling with that weird girl down I-5 and B giving the impression she paid for all the gas. That was a very BAD situation. B was always getting me in very bad situations because she made very bad choices. SO glad she is out of my life. George saw immediately how manipulative she was. 

Choice to not move to Seattle and pursue a career in Student Affairs and stay in Corvallis (and low on the totem pole at Oregon State) and start a relationship with George! Choosing George was choosing GOD's BEST! The other one was a "small ambition." This quote was a guiding one:

Tell the students to give up their small ambitions and come eastward to preach the gospel of Christ." – Francis Xavier, missionary to India, the Philippines, and Japan

Am I accepting of who I am today? If not, can I hold those areas up to God? If yes, can I hold my whole self up to God, in gratitude?

Absolutely accept who I am today!!!

Are there areas I feel God is wanting to love in me? change in me? make use of for others?

I am in a new situation, and I feel like I can either conform to every one else to fit in or I can just be me, unapologetically me. 

He loves me just the way I am. I don't need to worry about passive-aggressive and even aggressive people. Fran was so helpful in how I can cope in this new environment I am in, and she had a similar environment with her training. That was insightful. 

I want to change to feel like it is others' choice to compare, compete, be crestfallen. I will go in the white limousine kingdom town car. It is a crossroad that I will take. I am getting off the tour bus and into that town car. There ARE people for the town car in this group, and I need to not worry about the rest, even if that means NOT fitting in! I don't need to fit in. The other times I did not fit in were because I made the choice not to conform. That was a good choice. No conformity but compassion. 

Making use of for others. YES. Sew seeds in soft soil were your words to me. You are sowing seeds in my soft soil through this who process. Thankful! 

Throughout this week, in every background moment, let there be expressions of gratitude for the blessings of how my life story is connecting me with God’s presence and love. Let me experience the feeling of my continuing to grow and develop. The one who formed us in our mother’s womb is still forming us this week.

My life story has so connected me to Your presence and love at EVERY TURN! What if I had taken the tour bus (or the ratty teenage car behind the stands)?  I shutter to think of where I would have ended up. Empty . . . alone . . . afraid . . . but maybe rich. NOT WORTH THE COSE though! 

The Grace we pray for this week:

I am grateful for the way my own life story connects me today with God’s presence and love.

AMEN 100x!


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