As Suzanne and I became friends and spent more time together, I realized that she was like a breath of fresh air. She brought an energy to my life that I welcomed, even though it was not always comfortable for me because she challenged me to be honest with my thoughts, feelings, beliefs and opinions, and by now you know how difficult that could be for me. Her enthusiasm for life was contagious and she consistently invited me to think outside the box...quite new and refreshing after my years of trying to avoid fear while earnestly striving to create safety and security around me at all times. Being the pastoral minister at our church meant that I also had the opportunity to participate in discussion groups and study groups that she offered to all the parishioners. My active involvement in these classes allowed me to take a closer look at my personal history with God and how I had formed the perceptions I held. I was also aware that the relationship I was building with God was also growing and changing. What an active time in my spiritual, personal and emotional growth.
In early spring Suzanne asked if I would be interested in attending a weekend retreat in Milwaukee with her. She explained that her spiritual teacher came from California two times a year to lead retreats. I didn't need to give it too much thought before telling her that I would definitely want to attend. That illustrates the level of trust I had developed in Suzanne. In the past I would have been more cautious and reluctant about being open to an experience that was new or different, but at this point I was intrigued with the possibilities that the retreat may provide for my spiritual development. Absolutely nothing could have adequately prepared me for the life-giving explosion that awaited me on that glorious weekend!!!
Greeting participants at the door was Francis, Suzanne's spiritual teacher and the retreat leader. I was wide-eyed with wonder as I first met Francis because I didn't understand the concept of spiritual teacher, and I was beyond curious to meet the woman that made Suzanne glow each time she would speak about her. My first impression was filled with adjectives: gentle, calm, safe, happy, peaceful, and inviting. Who wouldn't love that? I was attracted to her energy and I couldn't wait for the retreat to begin. Francis opened the retreat with a quietly enthusiastic welcome that even made this newcomer feel at ease. At one point she asked that each person bring plain paper and colored pencils, markers, paints or chalks for Saturday. I was intrigued even though I was far from being an artist. Maybe it was because I already felt a level of trust with Francis, but for whatever reason, I was not concerned or worried about the activity we would be assigned the next day. What I did know was that Suzanne and I needed to do a bit of shopping for Saturday, and we did not leave the event until 9:00 that night. Where would we be able to locate a store that late where we could buy our little art supplies? Don't ever underestimate two women focused on a mission.
Yes, we arrived the next morning with art tools in our hands. I also came with a sense of uncertainty mixed with anticipation for the upcoming activity. I was on the verge of being presented with one of the most treasured gifts of my life, and I wasn't even aware of it!